BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right, good afternoon, everyone. Hope you had a good 4th of July holiday. I have a few things to pass along at the top, and then I’ll be happy to take your questions.

As I highlighted last week, July 1 was the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force. To commemorate this important milestone, Secretary Austin traveled yesterday to Fort Meade, Maryland, to preside over an enlistment ceremony for 85 new recruits at the Baltimore Military Entrance Processing Station and to welcome them into the U.S. military. As the secretary highlighted, these recruits arrived at Fort Meade as individuals, but left as part of a team. To quote Secretary Austin, quote, “America’s all-volunteer force is the strongest military in human history, and the power of today’s military is a testament to every American patriot who freely volunteers to keep our republic safe,” end quote.

In other news, Secretary Austin conducted separate phone calls today with several of his counterparts, to include Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilbert Teodoro, Jr., Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant. During his call with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Teodoro, Secretary Austin congratulated him on his new position and discussed ongoing efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Philippines alliance. The two leaders celebrated the remarkable progress the United States and Philippines have made over the past year to deepen defense ties, including expanding cooperation under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea and concluding bilateral defense guidelines. A full readout of the call is available on the DOD website.

In regards to his calls with Minister Reznikov and Minister Gallant, we’ll provide readouts as soon as they’re available later today on

On the travel front, Secretary Austin will depart Monday to travel to Vilnius, Lithuania, as a member of the president’s team participating in the NATO Summit. The summit is scheduled for July 11-12, after which the secretary will return to the U.S.

Separately, Deputy Secretary Hicks is on travel in the Indo-Pacific region this week, where she met yesterday with Admiral Aquilino and INDOPACOM staff in Hawaii to discuss progress on implementing the National Defense Strategy and observed experiments involving the Joint All-Domain Command-And-Control system, or JADC2.

Today, the deputy secretary is scheduled to visit Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and meet with service members there.

Turning briefly to operations, yesterday, U.S. Navy Central Command announced that U.S. forces prevented two attempted commercial tanker seizures by the Iranian Navy after the Iranians opened fire against one of the tankers near the coast of Oman. Additional details regarding the NAVCENT’s response are available on their website. Notably, both of these incidents occurred in international waters and represent a pattern of behavior by the Iranians.

Since 2021, Iran has hara- — harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 internationally-flagged merchant vessels, presenting a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy. Beginning in May, the United States increased the rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, with partners following the uptick in Iranian merchant vessel seizures. As demonstrated by NAVCENT’s response yesterday, the increased force presence supports multinational efforts under the International Maritime Security Construct and bilaterally with partner nations to deter threats to commercial shipping and reassure regional mariners. The United States will continue to respond to Iranian aggression together with our global allies and our partners in the Middle East region to ensure the freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz and other vital waterways.

And finally, this weekend, U.S. Army Pacific will kick off Exercise Hanuman Guardian, a military-to-military exercise with the Royal Thai Army, which will run through July 22nd. The exercise seeks to build both capacity and interoperability with our Thai partners in the INDOPACOM theater. The exercise offers tactical training at the battalion level, bilateral long-range fires training and exchange subject matter expertise on medical, counter improvised explosive devices and aviation operations. For more information on the exercise, I’d refer you to U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs.


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And with that, I will take your questions. We’ll start with A.P., Tara.

Q: Hi, General Ryder. Thanks for doing this. The A.P.’s reporting that President Biden has decided to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine. How has the Pentagon been able to address concerns about dud rates that can put civilians’ children at risk? And how will these munitions help Ukraine in this stage of the fight?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. So in — in terms of DPICMs, I don’t have anything to announce today, Tara. As you know, that is something that is under consideration. I will say that we have multiple variants of DPICMs in our stocks, and the ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with dud rates that are higher than 2.35 percent. We are aware of reports out there from several decades ago that indicate that certain 155-mm DPICMs have higher dud rates, so we would be carefully selecting rounds with lower dud rates for which we have recent — recent testing data.

Q: And — and given that the secretary’s headed to Vilnius soon, what sort of outreach has he had with NATO partners to address their concerns about the use of cluster munitions in this conflict?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don’t have anything specific to announce today in — in terms of DPICMs. If and when the decision is made, you know, certainly, we’ll provide more information as appropriate.

I — I will say this in terms of our allied — our allies and our partners, unity continues to main — remain very strong when it comes to supporting Ukraine and providing them with the capabilities that they need to be effective on the battlefield.

Q: But has he had any conversations with some of the Ukraine group partners, NATO allies?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don’t — I don’t have anything to read out today.


Q: General Ryder, what can you tell us about these incidents with the Russians. How close were they? And these incidents, you — you sent F-22 — and a squadron out to the Middle East to deter these kind of incidences (sic); clearly, not deterring the Russians. What’s next?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I know that AFCENT did — did provide a statement on this that highlighted three MQ-9 drones were conducting a mission against ISIS targets. Three Russian fighter jets began harassing those drones, using things like parachute flares to drop in front of them, as well as one aircraft engaging its afterburner, clearly meant to harass and clearly unprofessional and unsafe behavior on the part of the Russians.

You’ve heard us say before that our focus in Syria is purely on the defeat ISIS mission, and so that will continue to be our focus. Like AFCENT, we call on the Russian forces to cease this type of reckless behavior and to behave like professional airmen.

Q: Can you confirm that there were also two French Rafale planes that were approached by Russians — Russian war planes unsafely this afternoon?

GEN. RYDER: I don’t have any information on that.

Q: And just on the Iranian incidents with the naval vessels — today, there was — the Iranians overtook a commercial vessel. What can you tell us about that? And the Iranians say that yesterday, they had a warrant to seize one of the oil tankers that they were trying to approach when the USS McFaul got involved.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so my understanding on today’s incident is that, according to NAVCENT, there was doubt, in terms of the operational activities of this commercial vessel, the potential that it was illegally smuggling oil, and so did not feel the need to respond in this particular case to that incident, as compared to yesterday, where these two commercial oil tankers both hailed, requested assistance, both unprovoked, you know, in terms of the attack from Iran, in one case, as I highlighted, firing upon those — on those vessels.

So we’re going to continue to work very closely with our partners in the region to step up those patrols and — and ensure that we can deter aggressive behavior like that.

Q: And your reaction to Iran’s —

GEN. RYDER: — then I’ve got to go — move on —

Q: Yeah, but did they — well — but you didn’t answer my question, which was about the warrant that they said they had to seize the — the —

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, clearly, the — the information that Iran has put out is — is inaccurate, you know, so I — I think their record speaks for itself.

Let me go to Oren.

Q: On — on Monday, the Marine Corps Commandant will retire and — and General Smith will take over in an acting capacity. What message does it send to U.S. adversaries like Russia and China that the U.S. military will not have confirmed officers at its highest levels?

And then I have one more.

GEN. RYDER: Well, you know, as you’ve heard Secretary Austin and — and other officials say previously, the continuing hold on general officer, flag officer nominations will have an effect on military readiness, given the potential second and third order effects.

As you know, Oren, a — a key principle of effectiveness in our military is a well-defined chain of command. So uncertainty about incoming or outgoing commanders and senior leaders can make it difficult to plan for or advance mission requirements.

And so additionally, by design, our force management is predicated on up or out. So as promotions stagnate, it prevents lower tiers from being promoted into key positions, creating a — a domino effect. So ultimately, this all — also has an impact on the families and the service members awaiting updates regarding new assignments, which then gets into questions about things like housing, schools, other aspects associated with a move.

So obviously, from a — a uniform military standpoint, we’ll continue to focus on the mission at hand, but as — as the Secretary has highlighted, it will have and can have readiness impacts.

Q: And then one more last question. Last week, CENTCOM launched a 15-6 into the May 3rd drone strike that may have killed a civilian, but results of the civilian casualty credibility assessment report recommending that 15-6 were known a month earlier. Does the Secretary think it’s appropriate that it took a month between the recommendation for a 15-6 and the official sign-off launching the 15-6? Is that an okay timeline?

GEN. RYDER: So — so look, as you — as you highlight, CENTCOM is conducting an investigation. The Secretary is confident in the process by which we manage investigations. I’ll — I’ll leave it to CENTCOM to speak about the timelines but that investigation is underway, and — and when there are results to provide, certainly, you know, I’d refer you to CENTCOM to be able to do that. Thank you very much.

Let me go to Janne.

Q: Thank you, General. I have two questions on China. The Pentagon has announced that it — it will stop funding to U.S. universities if a university receives the support from the Chinese Confucius Institute. Can you elaborate more about this?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. So the F.Y. 2021 NDAA specified that, starting this October, the Department of Defense is prohibited from funding any U.S. institution of higher education hosting a Confucius Institute, unless it applied for a waiver from the Secretary of Defense.

And — and for those that don’t know what a Confucius Institute is, in August 2020, the State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a foreign mission of the People’s Republic of China, recognizing — recognizing it as an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and maligned influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.

And so the — the law requires that DOD establish an initiative to work with academic institutions that perform DOD research to assert an — whether foreign entities are using foreign talent programs to access U.S. technology and intellectual property.

And we are required under this legislation to publish on a public website a list of foreign entities with problematic characteristics or behaviors. We’re finalizing that detailed list at this time and will announce it when — when — at the appropriate time.

Q: Does the U.S. see China as a competitor or an adversary?

GEN. RYDER: I think our National Defense Strategy makes that very clear. We — we view them as a competitor and as– our pacing challenge.

Let me go ahead and move to the phone here. Be remiss — let me go to Jim LaPorta of The Messenger.

Q: Hi, thanks for doing this. On cluster munitions, you know, you talked about the — the dud rate. You know, John Kirby, in December of 2022, also talked about — you know, that the U.S.’ policy has concerns about, you know, cluster munitions being used. Besides the dud rate, what — what are the other concerns that the U.S. would have if these munitions are transferred to Ukraine? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Well, I — I appreciate the question, Jim. Again, I — I don’t want to get out of any — ahead of any potential announcement. I — I think that, you know, if and when a decision is made, we’ll have more to — to say on that.

All right, let me go to Idrees from Reuters.

Q: Hey, separate from any decision or — or non-decision on the cluster munitions, last month, Laura Cooper said that there were issues with congressional restrictions and concerns from allies. Have those concerns been allayed and have those congressional restrictions been overcome right now? Again, separate from any decision or non-decision, have those hurdles been overcome as — as we speak today?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Idrees. And — and again, not to — to be obtuse here but because, you know, the DPICMs are under consideration, when and if we have an announcement to make, we’ll be able to provide more details in terms of the process, to include the coordination on that front, but until a decision has been made and something’s been announced, I — I just don’t want to get ahead of that — that process.

All right, let me go back to the room here. Let me go to Fadi and then I’ll come over here to Tom.

Q: Thank you, General. So, I’m not going to talk about the decision but I’m going to talk about the process of consideration of these munitions. When did the Pentagon and the White House, National Security Council start thinking about these as a potential aid for Ukraine? And is this process of consideration related to any difficulties Ukrainians are facing in this counteroffensive? And is meant, if a decision is made, to help them address some of these difficulties?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, let me — let me just kind of break your question into two parts here. So, on the first part, I don’t — I don’t have a timeline to provide you. As you know, throughout the course of this conflict we’ve had regular discussions with the Ukrainians, regular discussions with our allies and partners in terms of what are the kinds of capabilities that Ukraine needs on the battlefield. As I highlighted at the — at the top here, DPICMs are a capability that is under consideration.

While I’m not going to get into the — you know, the specifics of those discussions, I think what DPICMs bring to a battlefield is anti-armor and anti-personnel capability. So, essentially it can be either loaded with shape charges, which are armor penetrating, or they can be loaded with fragmentary munitions, which are anti-personnel. So clearly, a capability that would be useful in any type of offensive operations.

I would note that the Russians have already been employing cluster munitions on the battlefield, many with very — which included very high dud rate reportedly. And so, you know, yes, we’ll just leave it at that. Thanks.


Q: Thanks Pat. I wanted to ask you about a response you made last week. And I’ll refresh your memory. It was a question asked about a colleague about why some of the African countries may want to use the Wagner Group as a security force. And you said at the end, I can’t speak for why someone would want to hire a transnational criminal organization to provide their security.

My — I wasn’t at that briefing and I apologize. So, my question is the clarification, that phrase transnational criminal organization, did you use it in just specifically regarding Wagner or —

GEN. RYDER: Yes, State Department. The U.S. government is.

Q: No — Okay, thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks very much. All right, let me go back to the phone here. Jeff Schogol, Task and Purpose.

Q: Thank you very much. The Consolidated Appropriation Acts of 2010 and 2019, prevent the Defense Department from transferring or selling cluster munitions to any nation if the dud rate is above 1 percent. I believe you said the dud rate that — of the munitions being considered is 2.35 percent. So, does — do these two acts prevent the transfer of DPICM to Ukraine? And how is DOD verifying that the dud rate on these munitions is 2.35 percent?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Jeff. Again, if and when an announcement is made, we’ll have more detail to provide on that front. As I mentioned before, in the event that we do provide this capability, we would be carefully selecting rounds with load dud rates for which we have recent testing data, including as recently as 2020.

All right, let me go to Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg.

Q: Hi, Pat, I have a non-munitions — a non-question munitions question. You started out the briefing talking about the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force. Later this month marks the 75th anniversary of the desegregation of the armed forces. For the record, help reporters and everybody else understand this later in the month. Can you get statistics on how many African Americans are in the — are in the military overall? And then by service? That would be really a helpful metric.

GEN. RYDER: Yes, Tony, we can get that for you. For the group here. Thank you.

All right, got time for a few more. Let me go to Chris.

Q: Hi. The Russian Ministry of Defense on the drone incident over Syria said they were conducting a joint deal — drills, the Russians and the Syrians, over northern Syria, and that the U.S. aircraft were violating the airspace. And a Russian Ministry of Defense official said the Russian side bears no responsibility for the safety of flight of unmanned aerial vehicles which were not agreed with the Russian side. So was the U.S. violating deconfliction protocols? Or —

GEN. RYDER: You — did you see the video?

Q: Well, but — but — but on — but did the U.S. drone go into an area that was deconflicted with the Russians per the protocol?

GEN. RYDER: I — I think AFCENT’s statement speaks for itself in terms of the type of unprofessional activity that — that we’re seeing from these Russian aircraft, from these Russian pilots. Again, we have been in Syria for many years now fighting ISIS as part of an international coalition. That is no surprise to anyone. We have rules in place that — you know, well-established processes and procedures, and have very successfully deconflicted with the Russians over many years when it comes to, you know, safe operations in the — in that region. So to suggest that somehow, you know, this is our fault, it’s ridiculous. So okay?

Go to this gentleman right back here, and then we’ll go ahead and closes it out.

Q: Thank you so much, General. Today there’s another escalation in the Middle East of the border between Lebanon and Israel, so do you have concerns that this kind of escalation could impact the stability of the region? And your opening statement, the — Secretary Austin, he already talk with his Israeli counterpart, so would you give us more details about how is — how — concerns you have about that escalation? Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much for the question. Well, as you’ve heard us say before, we certainly support Israel’s security and right to defend itself against terrorists, but we also feel that it’s very important for all possible steps to be taken to protect civilians from harm. And so, you know, again, we’ll provide a readout of the secretary’s call here as — as soon as we can, but we, again, reconfirmed with — the secretary reconfirmed with the minister again that Israel is a close ally and a partner, and that we will remain in close contact.

Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.


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