Pentagon News Conference on Iran Transcript – January 30, 2020 - transcription powered by Happy Scribe

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You. You're here now to hear what some of these three SCDP Arabs go away when she gets out of the White House. All right. I'll be right back. He's got thick skin. Say even go. So I love it. I want to thank both. Looks like we got it next right here. Oh, my goodness, I'm telling you, you'll get a lot of hard work and I care about you. You have to get out. Right.

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So sweet flight. I don't know. I was holding out the best. The other thing is they couldn't be friendly for me because, you know, I think. Against all. There. Security. That was really great. He also likes to always around. You know, I guess maybe he wasn't sure. She's just six weeks and I think I should to just expose that much. But I also think about the commercial. Is it gonna be?

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I mean, I think really is. Six hours? Yes. What's that? A lot of people are just going. Right. Right. The world. Right. I just want to die. You had to submit. It happened. Yeah. He's just gone. Like, oh, my God, I actually have a house that has no house after budget in four years, which we actually stand still. We have some. We're going to move on now.

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You look like you were right there. You. So I guess that I can actually work it. So you see what we're trying to learn. I know. I just made a deal with another. When you actually ask about X, Y and Z and we'll go with you. Doctors said he his associates. That's what. I was. I mean, I know the boy has physical marks. This guy has been so reclusive there. So just killing him positively.

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Guards were enough to get close to. Highest actually up. Yes. Otherwise, I don't know what you are really thinking. The northwest corner. All right. Let's get right. Every time I hear something, you say everything. I know. I guess you could say just like everything OK? Sure. You know, I got some other services. And that's one. Was something really right? You cannot show pictures of black kids. I guess you can.

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Yeah. See? I guess because somebody you what? Yeah, what's your flight range? Is it? I mean, our society, your ideal history will take measures. Right? Yeah, yeah. Right. And also, it's like. So what do you think you be dealing with? I certainly have a chance to do this, but I do said I always like when we're around all the time. I I really like it around. Was it just like pretzels or something to talk to you soon?

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Yes. Yeah. I said yes. I guess I don't see what you're saying. Yes, sir. Thanks, right. It's it sounds like this. Look at the way, been grateful. Great. That's what you're doing. That's right. This is how it works in this situation. Still looks good. I'll just be starters. He said he does not get tax rates by. Speculation. Right. So let's do it. We've been down here.

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That is all this breadth of inquiry. I get it right. You see, it was a general feeling as well. Well, you said company. Actually, I just thought that was something. So I go like that. So I also discussed this yesterday. I felt like it was as much. I mentioned. How of choose. Yes, I thought that you said that charge. Yes. That's because we're gonna get started, it just may remember the ground rules.

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Please first toss your cell phone. Don't be that person. One question with one related follow up and follow. The secretary of the chairman will come out and make an opening statement and then we'll go from there.

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We didn't one. That was kind of like israelian laterals. Isn't that what your question should be? Guess I'm president. Personally, I wouldn't it? I was ready to see Jerry Lewis. I think I we have so many conveniences. Your name is. You're too cute. Oh, just you know, I was approached by saying the other day, I said restaurants, here's my. Sources like. Businesswoman's Teeger Teeger Teeger passengers shout something so silly like the first race.

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You're looking here. Yeah, it say. Twenty eight minutes. I walk around all the time, I couldn't think straight. Yeah. Yes. As far as I can job at my. Psychologist examines this issue. So it's a strange thing for a father to study. You can't do any of those things all the time. That's just it has to be done. OK. Good morning, everyone. I'd like to begin by offering my deepest condolences to the families of the three American service members who recently lost their lives in the line of duty.

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Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Paul Voss and Captain Ryan Phaneuf were killed on January twenty seventh in an aircraft accident in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

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We have conducted recovery operations and are investigating the cause of the crash. And we thank our Afghan partners for their assistance. On January 24th, Army Specialist Antonio Moore died in Dara Zord Province, Syria, during a rollover accident while conducting rock clearing operations.

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We honor the service and sacrifice of these three men. And our thoughts are with their family and their friends.

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I'd also like to provide an update on several other fronts, beginning with the Corona virus.

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The department is providing housing support at March Air Reserve Base in California to assist Health and Human Services in caring for the nearly 200 State Department employees, dependents and U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China. I want to thank our men and women for the rapid response and assistance in this important effort. D.O.D. personnel are not in direct contact with the evacuees, nor will the evacuees have access to any other locations on base outside of their assigned housing department. Defense continues to work closely with our interagency partners, too, as we monitor the situation and protect our service members and their families.

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Which is my highest priority with regard to another personnel issue. The department will be providing an update on TBI numbers later today, but I'd like to stress that we take this issue very seriously. D.O.D. is a leading contributor in the treatment and research of brain related trauma. We do everything we can to identify, treat and help our service members recover and return to duty. Turning to news reports about possible troop reductions, I want to reiterate that our combatant command reviews are ongoing and no decisions have been made at this time.

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As I said before, we will ensure that any rebalancing of troops and resources is in line with our priorities under the national defense strategy. Meanwhile, we remain in close consultation with our allies and partners on this and other matters of shared interest.

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I would add that the chairman and I had the chance also to to update the chairman and ranking members of the defense committees this week on this issue and several others today in Bahrain, the international maritime security construct conducted a change of command between us.

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Rear Admiral Alvin Hosie and UK Commodore James Parker parking the IMC SC is committed to ensuring the freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman through the through which over 17000 thousand ships and one sixth of global oil production pass each year. We welcome Commodore Parkin to this vital endeavour which represents an international solution to an international problem. Earlier this week, I hosted the French minister of armed forces here at the Pentagon. As you all know, for a productive discussion about bolstering our long standing defense relationship and encouraging other European allies to do more in Africa and the Middle East tomorrow, I would welcome the Italian minister of defence to talk about bort burden sharing and strengthening our cooperation through to the defeat ISIS coalition.

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And next month, I will attend the NATO Defence Ministerial in Brussels to further engage with my European counterparts on the future of our readiness and collective security. I look forward to discussing NATO's expanded role in the Middle East and the importance of alliance unity as we adapt our force to an era of great power competition. With that, I'll turn it over to Chairman m.E.

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Thank, Secretary. I will have a opening statement. Before we get the questions, I want to echo what the secretary said about Colonel Voss and for his family, his family and indeed also for Captain Phaneuf. And specials more. There's no greater loss for any family than the loss of a loved one. And our thoughts and prayers from all of us in uniform or extended to their families. The remains to be brought back. As you know, to Dover tonight for a dignified transfer ceremony, secretary and others will be up there for them.

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So our thoughts and prayers are with the family. And with that, we'll take your questions. Thank you.

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Question to you, if I may. Mr. Secretary, on Corona virus. Are there precautions that you're making or trying to make with regard to U.S. personnel and, for example, Vietnam or other areas of areas in Asia or Europe to get ahead of this?

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Yes, I approved Day, a directive that will go on today from OSD apprising our forces about precautions they should take, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the virus, et cetera. That will be first of. Probably a few. Again, force protection for our service members, our civilians and their families is a priority, so we want to make sure we stay in front of it. And with regard to information and in other precautions that would be taken.

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I know the Endo PACOM command will also be taking measures given that this virus is emanating from that theater. So they will be at providing additive information as well.

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I don't know if I may ask your question on Iraq and the TBI issue, the Secretary Rice. Are there are additional or different precautionary measures that can be taken, should be taken to mitigate blast exposure for troops and this kind of instance or others? And also on TBI, as the person who's had extensive experience in the field, in war zones, that you've seen a lot of things. Have you seen the manifestation of these kind of concussive injuries that show themselves in behavioral problems to the extent that people have to be removed from the field?

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Yeah. Thanks for the question. But the short answer is yes and yes. There are a wide variety of extensive experiments and designs and things like helmet design, etc. There's a lot of treatment therapies that were due. As you know, we we put in the mace test quite a few years ago. We really started manifesting I'd say broadly about 10 years ago where we began a series of of mitigation actions within the force mace test is one of them where the we immediately test within the first 24 to 48 hours, start testing people on neurological symptoms, asking questions, putting through some physical exams, et cetera, et cetera.

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In this case, as you know, there were thousands people at the al-Assad air base. Those are within the distance of the of the blast. These were, you know, a thousand two thousand pound munitions that were coming in with heavy armor, pressure, etc. All of those people were screened and we've got a certain number. And then the number is growing. And in this particular case, TBI, that manifests take some time to manifest itself. It's not an immediate thing necessarily.

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Some cases it is. Some cases it's not. So we continue to screen some of men evacuated to Europe. Some have been evacuated back to United States. So there's a is a layered approach to this that we'll continue to do that with our medical professionals. In terms of mitigations, you know, the first thing is to mitigate from the actual shrapnel and the blast to prevent physical injury in the sense of, you know, wounds resulting in a loss of limbs, et cetera.

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And that requires early warning, which happened, getting under cover, which happened dispersal, getting into safe areas and so on. All of that is what prevented killed in action. And so they're very seriously injured, such as amputations, et cetera. But the TBI piece is different. Your brain is a very fragile part of your body, even though it's encased inside your your skull. But the over pressures and the injuries to the brain, the unseen wounds of war, for example, those can be BKB serious or they can be not so serious, depends on the individual, depends on the proximity to the blast.

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And sometimes they are lifelong. Sometimes they resolve themselves within weeks or months. So it's got constant monitoring and we take a lot of measures within the military to make sure that we screen those out in terms of mitigation in the future. As we do that, we're we've partnered with various organizations in health organizations to try to develop not only therapies, but also preventive measures, things like like helmets, for example. And one thing I would add is, you know, as Army secretary, I'm sure the chairman would call when he was chief.

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We were working, spending quite a bit of time and resources to understand how we can either change the composition of our helmets or the design so he could either divert a concussion or absorb it to deflect it. And as I travel throughout the army meeting, at least with our research labs, to understand that I think the army is the service, the military is a leader on this issue. We've partnered the army, at least with the NFL, to understand this.

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And it's something we have to continue to work, not work on. It's very important. We have to make sure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines have all the protections they need to, you know, to fight and survive and win and recover quickly in military operations. And Bob, you have the second party question was, does manifest selfish behavior health in some cases? Absolutely. Yes, it can translate it can become post-traumatic stress sick.

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It can become a wide variety of behavioral health issues when you do damage to the brain in this case. Right now, it's too early to tell the diagnosis. We have so far for all of the all of the folks that have been diagnosed to date is mild traumatic brain injury. That's the diagnosis. It's been reported to us so far. And I I'm sorry, this is just a good topic. We are still learning there is a lot more to be learned about these injuries were putting a lot of money into research.

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It affects us not just on the battlefield, but look, our our service members get hurt during training as well. They get hurt during, you know, all types of activities. We need to understand how the brain is affected by the by injuries to it, whether it's from a concussive blast or other things. So it's important for the research we need to continue to work on.

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I think with TBI, actually, when you saw the. Payload of the missiles and how close they came to some of the shelters. At that point, did you expect that there would be TBI or is that something that surprised you?

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For me, it's not a surprise. There's this concussive injuries as a result of any explosive device that goes off. You can get concussive injuries from hitting your head, from falling, from parachute jumps, etc. So no, it's not necessary. It's a surprise. What we do when we're in contact with the enemy, we're in a firefight, incoming mortars, rockets, θ ballistic missiles or anything. The very first thing you're focusing on is life and limb.

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So when we say reported casualties, we're really talking about killed in action and serious injuries like loss of limbs. The TBI manifests itself over time. It's not so instantaneous. So not a surprise necessarily. But the focus immediately is loss of life and limb.

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Just in retrospect, do you think it would have been better or more forthcoming if you had not initially said there were no injuries? And do you think the president saying better, just headaches minimizes the injuries and TBI?

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Chairman, I spent most of the night going over casualties and understanding what happened on the ground with General Mackenzie and others. I think the reporting was accurate at that time, as reported. There were no casualties as as as the chairman just defined it. I think again, over time you learn things and you get reports. And as we predicted when the first reports came in several days later, that there would likely be more and more, because I think these things, the TBI manifests itself over time.

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So I think we did our best to report no casualties. And I still believe that there were that morning there were no casualties reported.

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Secretary espero, why have you not moved the Patriot missile batteries into Iraq? What is the holdup? You know, really, do you take this to protect those bases? What they have been able to intercept those ballistic missiles?

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I'll let the chairman speak to the particulars of how the commander positions his forces, et cetera. But one things we need to do is make sure we have permission from the host government. And that's one of the matters we have to work on and work through.

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So they're being held up right now by the Iraqis.

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We need the permission of the Iraqis. That's one issue. There may be others with regard to placement and things like that or more tactical, more operational. So it's a combination of things.

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We're working with the Iraqi government in order to do exactly what you've just suggested. There's mechanical pieces, the science of also speak of actually moving and bringing in paid your a patriot battalion is not a small organization is relatively large. So the mechanics of it all have to be worked out. And that is in fact, ongoing in terms of what it should it could have in terms of if there was a Patriot battalion at al-Assad or Abele or whatever, could they have shot down these TBM?

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That's what they're designed to do. Can't say for certain, obviously, whether in that case if those altitudes and those ranges, et cetera, if that were to happen. But that is exactly what they're designed to do, is just shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. But you do feel you need them. Yes, the commander feels he needs them. And our intent is to assess the commanders requests and determine whether we feel them or not. In this case, we think we support the commander.

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Given what happened. Go back to the question. TVI, the president did say that these wounds were not serious and he characterized many headaches. Could I ask both of you? What do you make of those comments? And given that in your opening statement, you say the department takes it very seriously. How is that at odds with the department?

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You forgot had the chance to speak with the president. He he is very concerned about the health and welfare and welfare of all of our service members, particularly those who were involved in the operations in Iraq. And he understands the nature of these injuries.

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And I would say there's three categories of wounded in action that we've had for years. One is VSI, very serious. And you've probably offered me with his very serious injury. One is ESSI serious injury. One is NSI, not serious injury. And in this case, the reporting to date indicates mild TBI, which would be in the category of not serious injury. That doesn't mean they're not injured and it doesn't mean to the individual. But in the categories that we categorize wounded in action, these individuals are in the NSA category at this time.

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That's not to minimize or dismiss or anything. That's just to say that that's how we categorize casualties.

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So would you say the president is now better informed than he was when he made those comments? I'm not going to comment on that.

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I think for many people, this is a learning process where we are sending teams of briefers to the Hill, if you will. We're gonna have a conversation with many Hill staff today. I think we need to update Hill staff members of Congress to understand what TBI injuries are. They are. Again, this is something we've come to learn about. The chairman can speak more fluently on it over the past 10, 15 years, as we've seen IED attacks on our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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So, again, this is an injury. We need to keep educating everybody about the hill. You, all of you. The American people and even myself. It's a it's a learning process for many of us. You know, some of these some of these injuries that right now are called mild TBI and they're in the NSA category. That might change. These things are cumulative, too. So if you get multiple concussions that can manifest itself down the road, it could be a year or two years.

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So it could. What Bob was talking about in terms of behavioral, so we're early in the stage of diagnosis, were early in the stage of therapy for these troops. We'll continue to monitor the rest their lives, actually, and continue to provide whatever treatment is necessary.

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And we take great pride in the fact that these are our own and we're going to take care of the kids, to take care of our service members, treat them not just the immediate, the acute, but also through the through their lifetime of service and beyond and make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent injuries in the future through new helmet designs, other ways by which we can protect them. And that's that's what we're committed to doing.

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Hi. I just have a quick clarification and then to separate question just on the international maritime security contract that you mentioned, that you're changing command and the commander told me in UK, Commodore. Can you just clarify? My understanding was that this was a U.S. led effort. Is it now a U.K. led effort or is there something that I'm missing? And then my question is, the commanders of AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM are on the Hill this morning and lawmakers have raised concerns about the possible drawdown and on on those continents and worries that this will allow the Chinese influence to grow there.

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So can you just explain how reducing our footprint in Africa will help? Their posture at the U.S. to counter China on the first thing, it's we've described it as a U.S. led effort that I must say. But clearly we have many partners. And I think the fact that we have the UK want to step up and take leadership of the IMF, see in particular shows that it's an international effort and we're all committed to it. This is part and parcel of what we're doing in other theaters, if you will.

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On the second point and I said this, some of you traveled with me to SOUTHCOM. I know the I know the inclination is whenever somebody says review, the word that automatically pops up in your head is reduction right there. When we do reviews, I like to say it's a. It is a rebalancing, if you will, a right sizing. In some cases we will increase. In some cases we won't change. In some cases we will decrease.

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I think in the context of great power competition, as I mentioned to the leaders of the Defense Committee this week, I'm placing at the top the list the commands need to be able to to conduct their war plans in contingent and contingency plans. Next blow, that is great power competition. Those in when it comes to great power competition. Those are areas in both AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM that I'm looking at increasing our posture, not necessarily reducing our posture. So I want to make sure that we compete first and foremost when it comes to the NDIS in the respective theaters.

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But it's also a global competition with Russia. Russia and China. And we need to make sure that we're well postured to deal with them as appropriate wherever we may find that presence.

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Just just to clarify those things, you you're looking at potentially increasing force presence in Africa, not decreasing.

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Well, we are adjusting the presence, right. Adjusting numbers and how we allocate the personnel more toward global great power competition. It may be less towards c.T.

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So, OK. OK. You can you say for a fact that you're not going to totally withdraw U.S. forces from Africa.

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We're not going to totally withdraw forces from Africa. Economy, a force doesn't mean complete withdrawal from any any continent. And we do economy force in various locations. And it's it's an important distinction to make. And I've never said it. I again, I know that's the concern of many folks. But again, I'd say no decisions have been made yet. This is a process I had AFRICOM in last week. And what they presented me with me raised many other questions that have been tasked out.

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And I think this is gonna be an iterative process with them. I began the process last week as well with SOUTHCOM, and that will be that will go on. These things take time. But the end, end of the day, I want to make sure that our commands are aligned to the national defense strategy.

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And again, that first begins with ability to execute their war plans, contingency plans. Second is great power competition. And then third, depending on the theater, different tasks, right? In AFRICOM, it's C-T is important in SOUTHCOM, counter-drug important. So we're got to make sure that we're appropriately prioritizing and and allocating and positioning forces appropriate to the mission and appropriate to everything else we have to do as a department defense in the world. Okay.

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Before this morning, we've seen that there's going to be a policy change on personnel landmines. Can you confirm the report and give us a reason why the change now? And does this mean that there'll be anti-personnel land mines specifically outside of Korea?

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There will be a change coming out. I'm not going to comment on it until it is.

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Barbara Miller, I wanted to take you back to the question on mitigation measures for TBI and especially in Iraq. So, yes, Patriots, but you can't put patriots everywhere improvement in helmets. But Iran has, you know, managed to injure 50 to 60 American forces through the use of ballistic missiles. So now that you look back, lessons learned from this event, it seems to be an extraordinary not happened before kind of thing. Do you need to?

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You knew and the Pentagon knew that ballistic missiles were a threat. Should there be? Should there have been stronger bunkers, stronger facilities designed for that intense blast wave rather than facilities designed just for rockets and mortars? Is is should somebody have thought about having stronger defenses since you didn't have Patriot missiles? And can I ask you, you've both mentioned helmets. When helmets be stronger, helmets have made a difference against a ballistic missile blast wave. I'm on the helmets as a general comment about mitigating TBI writ large.

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Again, not look at a theater ballistic missile that were fired. These were a thousand two thousand pound munitions. These things have bursting radius as a 50 to 100 feet in. That's just the shrapnel in the actual blast. These are very, very significant serious weapons. And and in turn, you know, if you're within a certain range of that thing, there's no helmet or anything else that's going to that's gonna save you. But I would argue that the defenses did work in that.

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No one was killed and there were no loss of life or limb. That's significant. So there were people within range of these things. You saw the impact. I think you saw the impact points of impact of these missiles. They were in areas. And I'd still my contention even today that the intent was not only to destroy facilities and equipment, but also to kill people. And the fact that no one was killed or no one lost limbs, I think that is significant speaks, I think, volumes to early warning systems, also to S.O.P.

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And scatter plants and also to the defensive preparations that were done. Could there be improvements? Absolutely. Yes. And we're taking a hard look at all of that to include bringing in ballistic missile defense that Jennifer was talking about.

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Can you point to if you're able to both besides Patriot, can you talk about any of the other things that look promising to you for additional defenses mitigation against ballistic missile missiles? I actually prefer not to talk about that. Talk about what we plan to do in the future in terms of defense or offense, for that matter, in order to defend against any country's capabilities. So we'll leave the future to the future for no one.

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Follow up on that. Are you? Are you looking at any other missile defense or any other kinds of defenses to go into Iraq besides the Patriots and not just against missile threats, but there have been problems with drones, other issues.

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There's a wide variety of tactical capabilities that we have that we will employ, that will introduce various things. But based on the commander's request in the enemy situation, to go into any specific capability that we're gonna put into Iraq or any other country prefer to leave that unanswered.

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And you've requested of the Iraqi government to train and advise us for more on Iraq to the president, if we need we need a quick one on troop numbers. If you ask you asked your question.

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So thanks, Scott. We'll get you.