Sep 18, 2022
Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder holds news briefing on 9/16/22 Transcript
Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder holds news briefing on 9/16/22. Read the transcript here.
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Gen. Pat Ryder: (00:00)
… drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $600 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. Notable capabilities include additional HIMARS ammunition, precision-guided 155 millimeter artillery rounds, counter-unmanned aerial systems, mine-clearing equipment, night vision devices, and cold weather gear for use as winter approaches.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (00:22)
In total, the United States has committed approximately $15.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24th and approximately $17.9 billion since 2014.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (00:38)
To meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, we’ll continue to work closely with our allies and partners around the world to support Ukraine as they defend their country against Russian occupation. And on that note, I’d flag that, in coordination with NATO, the US will host a special session under the auspices of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group with senior national armaments directors on September 28th in Brussels. They’ll discuss how our mutual defense industrial bases can best equip Ukraine’s future forces with the capabilities that they need to defend their country.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (01:10)
I know that Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Dr. LaPlante, touched on this a bit during his briefing last week but we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we have more information to provide on this important international effort.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (01:23)
Separate but related, earlier this week, I was asked about the status of NASAMS deliveries to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI. Since then, I’ve received an update that I wanted to pass along. We’re tracking that two NASAMS are expected to be delivered within the next two months or so. These defensive systems will further contribute to protecting Ukrainians from enemy air threats, to include aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (01:50)
Before I conclude and take your questions, I do have a few other items to provide.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (01:54)
Today, the US and Republic of Korea are conducting the bilateral Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group meeting at the State Department. The DOD delegation is led by Dr. Colin Kahl, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and this is the first EDSCG meeting since 2018. The consultation group provides an opportunity for our two governments to discuss peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (02:22)
Also this morning, Secretary Austin hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes. More than 80,000 American service personnel are missing from previous conflicts and 38,000 are estimated to be recoverable.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (02:37)
The Defense POW/MIA Agency remains relentless in its mission to provide the fullest possible accounting to their families and the nation until they can be brought home. It is important to Secretary Austin that we took the time today to recognize and honor the sacrifices of our service members and their families.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (02:56)
I also want to highlight that this month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Secretary Austin and Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough met virtually yesterday with military and veteran service organizations to reaffirm both departments’ commitment to providing mental health and other support resources to our service members and their families.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (03:15)
As Secretary Austin has said many times, mental health is health and we always encourage service members and veterans to reach out for help and seek the care they need. Confidential support is available 24/7 by dialing 988 and pressing 1 or visiting veteranscrisisline.net.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (03:35)
And finally, as we head into the weekend, we want to wish the US Air Force and the Department of the Air Force a Happy Birthday as the service celebrates its 75th anniversary on Sunday. For 75 years, American airmen have excelled as they execute the US Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win and deliver airpower anytime, anywhere in defense of our nation.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (03:53)
And with that, I am happy to take your questions. We’ll start with AP.
Nomaan Merchant: (03:57)
Hi, and good afternoon.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (03:57)
Nomaan Merchant: (03:57)
I’m Nomaan Merchant with the AP. Let me ask you two questions, if you don’t mind, the first being about some of the reports of a mass grave site at Izyum. President Zelenskyy said to day that there was evidence that people had been tortured, shot or killed by shelling and buried at Izyum. Can the Pentagon address some of those allegations, and particularly whether Russian forces were involved in wartime atrocities or setting up this mass gravesite at Izyum that’s been discovered?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (04:31)
Yeah. Thanks for the question. So we’ve seen the reports and certainly heard the comments by President Zelenskyy on this issue. We are tracking that the UN intends to send a team to investigate, so I don’t have any specific information to provide other than these kinds of reports are indicative of the suffering that we’ve seen civilians experience and people in Ukraine experience since Russia’s invasion.
Nomaan Merchant: (04:58)
And I’ll ask you another one quickly, if you don’t mind, about, there are some report of flight-tracking software of some of these flights that the government of Florida operated taking migrants from the San Antonio area to Martha’s Vineyard. There are some flight-tracking sites that showed that the planes originally took off from Kelly Field at Joint Base Lackland. And I’m wondering if the Pentagon is investigating whether Kelly Field was used to fly migrants, and if there is anything that’s being done to look into future uses of Kelly Field or other Defense Department installations in some of these state actions in immigration.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (05:40)
I don’t have any information to provide on Kelly Field. I am aware of the migrants that have been brought to Massachusetts, as you highlight. My understanding is that the Massachusetts governor has activated approximately 100 Guardsmen to help with that effort there. But in terms of the role of Kelly Field, I don’t have any information on that. Thanks.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (06:03)
Speaker 3: (06:04)
Thank you, General. On the EDSCG meeting.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (06:12)
Say that again.
Speaker 3: (06:12)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (06:12)
Speaker 3: (06:12)
It’s that long. The US and South Korea extended the deterrence strategy and consultation group meeting we’ve seen conducted today, as you said. And how can you assess this 2+2 meeting that has been suspended for four years and eight months?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (06:37)
How do I assess why it’s been suspended?
Speaker 3: (06:41)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (06:41)
Well, thanks for the question. I don’t have any specifics. I could speculate from here, but I’m not going to do that. Certainly, the relationship that we share with the Republic of Korea, regardless of how frequent those meetings have been, remains ironclad, and it’s an extremely important alliance between our two countries, and so today will be another opportunity to further strengthen the relationship, the security cooperation relationship that we have.
Speaker 3: (07:10)
So now it’s going to a later time if they were going to have a scheduled meeting with you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (07:17)
My understanding is that we will continue to have these meetings on a regular basis, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on that front. Let me go to Sylvie here. I’ll come back to you. Let me go to Sylvie here. Thanks.
Thank you. I would like to go back to the Lackland Air Force Base. Are you saying that because it was the National Guard activated by the governor, it’s the normal procedure that an Air Force base is used for a political reason?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (07:53)
No, I didn’t say that, and I don’t mean to insinuate that. We’ll look into what exactly the situation was at Kelly. I do know, and again, I’m speculating here, there could be a variety of factors in terms of air bases, are they dual uses or a civilian component to it, just because, and again, this is a broad generalization, just because aircraft are taking off from a location does not necessarily mean that there’s DOD involvement. But again, we’ll look into that and come back to you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (08:26)
Yeah, thank you. I just have a follow-up on the Claymore mines in this latest package. I know that President Biden banned most landmine use except for in Korea, I believe. So can you just explain why those Claymore mines are in there, and whether that falls under the policy?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (08:46)
We’ll check on the policy, but obviously, all of this equipment is intended to assist the Ukrainians in their offensive operations against Russia and to help them take back their territory.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (09:01)
Speaker 6: (09:02)
General, thank you. My audience is in Ukraine, and you may imagine how sensitive they are to any articles or rumors that US possibly might not provide enough military equipment. And it is an article published yesterday in Foreign Affairs and shared by the propaganda that telling people, I’m quoting, “US officials warned that extraordinary levels of military support the United States has sent to Ukraine over the past six months will be impossible to sustain as US military stocks begin to dwindle.” And they are quoting the former US ambassador to NATO. Can you comment on this?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (09:38)
Sure. I think all along, we’ve highlighted the fact that this is an international effort. There’s not any one country, to include the US, that’s supporting Ukraine. And so as evidenced by things like the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that was held recently at Ramstein and future opportunities, we’ll continue to examine what type of capabilities we can mutually provide to Ukraine, while at the same time for our own US military, we have systems in place and processes in place that take a very close look at, as we draw down our own stocks, what do we need to do to ensure that we continue to replenish? The bottom line is that US readiness, US military readiness is not in jeopardy or close to being in jeopardy, and we’re confident that we can continue to support Ukraine in their fight going ahead. Thank you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (10:31)
Speaker 7: (10:32)
Thank you very much. I want to ask you about the secretary’s meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Hamada this week.
Speaker 7: (10:39)
After that meeting, Minister Hamada said Secretary Austin strongly supported Japan having a new long-range-strike capability. Did the secretary believe such new long-range-strike capability would reinforce significantly US-Japan quality of deterrence against China?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (11:01)
Well, I think first of all, Secretary Austin very much enjoyed his time with the minister this week and having the chance to talk. The relationship that we have with Japan is one of our strongest in the world, and in the region in particular. And so anything that Japan or our allies in the region can do to help strengthen the deterrent and enable security and stability in the region is very welcome. Thank you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (11:31)
All right, now I’ll go back to you.
Speaker 3: (11:32)
Thank you. To follow up the meeting, that’s a long event anyway. Yesterday, the B-52 strategic bomber was shown to South Korean EDSCG groups. This came showing this at the Andrews Air Force Base. What symbolic significance does this give?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (12:04)
I don’t want to read into or try to speculate about that, other than to say that it is the US Air Force’s 75th anniversary. There is a variety of aircraft that we have out at Joint Base Andrews this weekend as part of that celebration.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (12:20)
The B-52 certainly provides unparalleled capability, in terms of global strike and deterrence, and so I’m glad that they were able to go see that. It obviously has played a critical role in US military airpower history and continues to play an important role in supporting our alliances worldwide. Thank you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (12:40)
Let me do a couple on the phone here, and we’ll come back in the room, I’ll go to Barbara. Let me go to Howard Altman first.
Howard Altman: (12:48)
Hey, thanks, Pat. A couple of questions, the first one a two-parter.
Howard Altman: (12:51)
Can you confirm the Ukrainian Army’s claim that they’ve fully captured Kupiansk? And then give us a little bit of a operational update.
Howard Altman: (13:00)
And then the second question is, does the Pentagon assess there’s any connection between the Russia struggles in Ukraine and then the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and now Tajikistan and Kurdistan? Thanks.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (13:15)
Okay, thanks. I think the first part of your question was you were asking about Kupiansk, is that correct?
Howard Altman: (13:23)
That is correct. The Ukrainian Army says that they’ve fully captured that. And just give us a operational update if you could.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (13:32)
Okay. Well, at the end of the day, in terms of granular details, Howard, I’d say we’ll let the Ukrainians talk to the specifics of their operation. Generally speaking, as I mentioned earlier, we have seen them make some advancements in the north, in the Kharkiv region. The Ukrainians continue to conduct their counter-offensive operations, which are, again, primarily up in the north, in Kharkiv, and then in the south, in the Kherson region.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (14:07)
In the north, what we assess is that the Ukrainians are consolidating their gains after taking back significant territory and that the Russians are attempting to shore up their defensive lines after having been pushed back.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (14:22)
In the south, the Ukrainians continue to make what we would assess is deliberate, calculated forward movements as the Russians continue to try to hold that line.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (14:34)
As always, our focus continues to remain on providing them the support that they need in their fight, as evidenced by our announcement last night on the PDA.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (14:44)
In terms of Armenia, we are aware of the reports. My understanding, just based on press reports, is that there is a truce. Certainly, we would echo what the State Department has said, is that there is no military solution to conflict and we would call for an immediate and full cessation of hostilities.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (15:06)
Thank you. Let me go to Barbara.
General Ryder, you said that, and I’m quoting you, “We’ll look into exactly what the situation was at Kelly.” Can we get a little more precision on a couple of key points?
When you say that, is that the Pentagon that’s going to look into it, is it the Air Force? Who’s looking into it? What do they need to know? What do they need to find out? Can you tell us if it is a joint US base? Would those flights have had to have been cleared by any military AT, Air Traffic control element? Same thing in Massachusetts.
And given the fact that this is happening and involving dual use, state-activated National Guard, what is the directive from the Pentagon on these operations? Is it clear that active duty military is not to be involved in these operations? In other words, the Secretary, having already rejected DC’s request twice, is he now saying even if there’s no request, don’t get involved? As much precision as you can-
Gen. Pat Ryder: (16:24)
… on this entire thing.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (16:26)
Sure. Let me start with the second part first. As I understand it, both missions are conducted in state active duty status under their respective governors. So for Massachusetts, I’d refer you to the Massachusetts Governor Office to talk about those National Guard troops.
And in fact, [inaudible 00:16:46] that means the federal government, the Pentagon is not paying for the activation of these forces?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (16:53)
That is my understanding.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (16:55)
In terms of Kelly and what’s happening there, to your point, we’ll get with the Air Force and either we’ll come back to you or we’ll have the Air Force come back to you on what exactly, if anything, transpired there, but I don’t want to make it up from here.
And has the Secretary said, either to the Air Force, federal National Guard elements, Army, whoever it may be, “No, you are not to be involved in operations where governors send migrants to other states or any of their flights or transportation arrangements?”
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:33)
I think, in this case, the Massachusetts Governor activated the National Guard troops. And so that’s where it stands right now.
Has the Secretary issued any directive guidance? Has he got any requests from state-
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:49)
Not that I’m aware of.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:50)
Not that I’m aware of.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:50)
Can I ask that whenever the Air Force gets back to that, it goes to all of us too, not just Barbara, please?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:55)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (17:55)
And then I wanted to ask about a RAND study that came out this week about women’s reproductive health. The Pentagon requested it several years ago, but it found that there’s as many as 7,400 women, active duty women and DOD civilians may be impacted by the Dobbs decision going forward.
So what I’m wondering is, where can you update us on where things stand with that in the military, in the Pentagon? Have there been cases where women have … where DOD has supported, as the Austin memo said after the decision was made public, where DOD has supported moving women to other places so that they can get care? Have there been any physicians at military treatment facilities that have been subject to state laws and maybe prosecuted, DOD’s had to provide counsel and other things that Secretary Austin or … I’m sorry, it wasn’t Austin’s memo, it was personnel. Another thing that that memo laid out. I guess if you could just update us on where that stands? And do you expect any changes or any additional guidance on abortion care and reproductive care for women going forward? Thanks.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (19:04)
Yeah. Thanks, Courtney. So first of all, there is nothing more important to the Secretary and the Department of Defense than the health and wellbeing of our service members.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (19:14)
In terms of policies related to Dobbs, for now, our current policy of providing covered abortions remains in effect, in accordance with federal law. I don’t have any specific individual cases to talk to you about but we continue to discuss the impact of Dobbs on personnel policies, and certainly, we’ll keep you updated on that front.
I mean, is anyone tracking that? Because I know that there’s been … There’s obviously a lot of interest in it in the military community of women. And it’s not just active duty, there’s also dependents and …
Gen. Pat Ryder: (19:49)
I mean, is anyone at the DOD level tracking whether this is actually having an impact on …
Gen. Pat Ryder: (19:56)
I would say yes. I mean, this continues not only within the Department of Defense, but all the services to be an active conversation in terms of what do we need to do to ensure that we are taking care of our members and their families, and looking at those policies.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (20:13)
So again, when we have more details to provide, we’ll make sure we keep not only you updated, but the members of our force.
So just to be clear, so at this point there have been … you’re not aware, or the Pentagon isn’t tracking any cases where women have been denied care, or there have been issues with providing women with abortion services at-
Gen. Pat Ryder: (20:33)
From this podium I’m not currently tracking any cases. That doesn’t mean there aren’t, but I’m not tracking those. So again, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (20:42)
Okay, let me go back out to the phone. Tara Copp from Defense One.
Tara Copp: (20:46)
Hey, thanks for doing this. Just a follow-on on the migrants and Guard. Could you also look specifically into the use of Guard aircraft and whether there’s an overarching Air Force policy, DOD policy on the use of … on any sort of aircraft?
Tara Copp: (21:05)
And then secondly, on the drawdown and just the fact that first one could be taken for everybody. Secondly on the drawdown, the cold weather gear, could you describe what type of cold weather gear is being sent, and is this kind of the first of a lot of cold weather gear that might be sent for a long winter fight?
Tara Copp: (21:25)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (21:26)
Thanks, Tara. So copy all on your first point there. Again, we’ll take that. In terms of the cold weather gear, we’re talking things like parkas, gloves, the kinds of things that you would use for conducting operations in cold weather.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (21:46)
And in terms of the future, again, we continue to work very closely with our Ukraine partners and the international community to look at what their needs are, and so we’ll be sure to keep you updated if there are future announcements related to cold weather gear that we need to make.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (22:05)
Okay, let me go to Matt White from Coffee or Die.
Matt White: (22:08)
Yes, thank you for the briefing, sir.
Matt White: (22:10)
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense … Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (22:14)
I can hear you. I can hear you.
Matt White: (22:18)
Great. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense put out a release today describing that they have reports of Russian soldiers retreating across the Dnipro River using stolen motorboats from residents locally. I’m wondering if you have any reports of that? And also, a little bit beyond that, if there are other reports that you’re getting that might speak to sort of if the retreat in that area has been particularly disordered?
Matt White: (22:49)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (22:50)
Sure. I don’t have any comments or information to provide on that level of detail Matt. Again, I’d refer you to the Ukrainians to get those kinds of updates.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (23:02)
In terms of characterizing the Russian retreat, again beyond what we’ve already talked about in terms of as the Ukrainians conducted their counteroffensive in the north in the Kharkiv region, as mentioned we saw the Russians fleeing over the border in some locations, and of course the reports of low morale, logistics issues, sustainment challenges. Beyond that, I don’t have any other details to provide.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (23:34)
Okay, I can take one or two more.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (23:36)
Speaker 13: (23:37)
[inaudible 00:23:37] with military.com. On the topic of POW/MIA Day, there are at least two Americans that are being held captive in Ukraine at the moment, I think a few others have gone missing. Do you have any updates on the Americans that are currently being held captive by Russian separatist forces?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (23:56)
I do not have any updates. Thank you.
Speaker 13: (23:58)
And is there any new message to the veterans that are currently fighting in the country?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (24:04)
To US veterans fighting in the country?
Speaker 13: (24:06)
Gen. Pat Ryder: (24:06)
I don’t have a message to pass along. Thank you.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (24:08)
Okay. [inaudible 00:24:09]. I’m sorry. Last question.
Speaker 14: (24:12)
Back to Ukraine, a senior State Department official said yesterday or expected yesterday heavy fighting in Ukraine during the fall as both sides try to reposition themselves in preparation for the winter. Also, he said despite progress made by the Ukrainians recently, the war is far from its end. Do you share, do you agree with this assessment?
Gen. Pat Ryder: (24:39)
So I’m, again, not going to try to speculate and put a timeline on this conflict, other than to say again we believe that this will continue to be a tough fight. Certainly, we’ve seen the Ukrainians have some success and we’ll continue, and our focus will continue to be on supporting them in their fight.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (25:02)
But we do anticipate that this will continue to be a very tough fight and the only thing that could shorten it would be is if the Russians decided to do the right thing and withdraw their occupying forces from Ukraine.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (25:20)
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate it.
Speaker 15: (25:22)
Thank you sir. Have a good weekend.
Gen. Pat Ryder: (25:22)
You too. Have a great weekend.