Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—June 20, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Okay, just a couple of quick announcements and then we’ll get to your questions.
First, on schedule: As you may know, this morning Secretary Hagel met with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key here at the Pentagon. The secretary expressed his appreciation for New Zealand’s important contributions in Afghanistan and for the renewed growth in U.S.-New Zealand defense engagements. The secretary and the prime minister also discussed developments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, of course, the Asia Pacific region.
In just a little more than an hour from now, at 2:15 p.m., the secretary will make remarks at the Hall of Heroes induction ceremony for our newest Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. We all share the nation’s pride in Corporal Carpenter’s bravery, and I expect you will hear the secretary reiterate that, as well as his personal admiration for the sacrifices Corporal Carpenter made and was willing to make to save his fellow Marines.
For next week, the secretary will host the Norwegian minister of defense on Tuesday. And then on Thursday, he will host the Italian minister of defense.
And now, secondly, just an update on the secretary’s military health system review. The department has identified seven military treatment facilities that will participate in the site visit component of this review. They will include San Diego Naval Hospital, which will be visited today; Madigan Army Hospital at Fort Lewis; Winn Army Hospital at Fort Stewart; Georgia, Lakenheath Air Force Hospital in England; Fort Belvoir Community Hospital right here in the capital region; the Air Force Academy Cadet Clinic; and the Patuxent River Naval Clinic down in Patuxent, Maryland.
The site visit teams will consist of more than 20 health care professionals, to include some flag and general officers. The review teams will meet with facility staff to assess the quality of care, access to that care, and, of course, patient safety at each of these facilities. Additionally, the teams will hold two town hall sessions at each site, one for faculty and staff and then one for beneficiaries of the care.
And with that, I’ll take some questions. Bob?
Q: John, do you have details at all about this incident in Afghanistan, southern Afghanistan today in which three people were killed? Can you confirm that they were Americans or anything else about that event? And also, can you bring us up-to-date on the military advisory mission in Iraq as to who’s there now and…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure. On the first, no, Bob, actually I don’t. I mean, I’m seeing initial reports same as you. I just don’t have any context to provide right now, but obviously, as information becomes available and we can share it, we certainly will.
On the advisory mission in Iraq, as you know, the president made it very clear what his intentions are. I want to remind everybody that — that the first — the first set of teams that will be going in will be largely assessment teams, and they’re going to be doing three things. They’re going to be assessing the state, the cohesiveness and capability of the Iraqi security forces.
They’re going to be assessing the situation on the ground for us to help us gain more intelligence and more information about what ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and Levant] is doing and how they’re doing it.
And then the third thing is, quite frankly, to assess the feasibility and the — and the future potential for follow-on advisory teams. You know, we haven’t had that kind of perspective in Iraq for quite some time, so before we can flow in additional advisers, we’ve got to have a better sense of where — where they could best be employed, for how long, at what units, that kind of thing. So…
Q: Is it not a given that those follow on teams will flow?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Oh, I mean, I think — I think the president’s direction was clear. Of course, we will be providing more teams of advisers, but we’ve got to have a — just like in any unfolding situation like this, like even in a disaster relief operation, one of the first things you do is you deploy assessment teams to go find out what the requirements are before you start flowing in your support, and that’s what I think these first couple of teams will do for us.
The — so those first — those first couple of teams will be drawn from personnel that are already there in Iraq working at the Office of Security Cooperation there through the embassy. So the first — those first couple will be drawn, you know, from assets that are already intrinsic to Iraq. And then, as I indicated yesterday, the rest of the advisers and teams that will come later, most of them will be re-missioned from an inside the Central Command area of responsibility.
Q: So they’re — has that work already — that assessment work already begun then by the people who are already there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. As I said, they will be — these first couple of teams will be drawn from — from personnel that are already there, but those teams have not been, as we stand here today at 1 o’clock, they have not been stood up right now.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think — look, everybody shares the proper sense of urgency here, and everybody’s working on this very hard. I think it will be very soon. Very soon.
Q: Admiral, I have an Iraq question, but I wanted to ask one quick follow-up on your announcement about the health review. Can you tell us any more about why those sites were selected, the hospitals you talked about? Do they — were they picked at random? Or was there a process that determined that these would be (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can get you greater detail, but there was — I mean, it was a deliberate decision to choose these seven facilities. They’re joint, as you know. They come from all the difference services. And they’re spread geographically around the country, as well, and they’re of varying size.
So, in general, this was — these were deemed to be seven good representative medical facilities for us to look at. And, you know, if the review calls for other site visits, that we’ll — you know, we’ll certainly consider that, but these will be the seven that we’re going to look at right now.
Q: On Iraq, we learned yesterday that the U.S. has stepped up these surveillance flights there to include some areas that have 24-hour coverage. Does that mean that there are surveillance aircraft operating from within Iraq, as in from bases there?
And, secondly, are there restrictions on the host nations that have American aircraft in the Middle East about potential military strikes, as in do host governments have objections to potentially launching attacks from their runways, if the president makes that decision?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What was your first one again?
Q: Are there aircraft that are doing the surveillance based in Iraq?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Okay. All right, so on — on the intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance support that we are providing right now from the air, it certainly has been intensified. We now have — we now are flying enough flights, both manned and unmanned, that it’s around-the-clock coverage.
We’re not looking at the whole country. We’re looking at parts of the country that are obviously of greatest interest. It is a — as I said, a mixed of manned and unmanned aircraft. The manned aircraft, I can tell you, are both — are both from land- and sea-based. I won’t get into specific platforms or, for those that are land-based, specific locations.
On your other question, we greatly appreciate the support that we get from our partners in the region. And — and we try to respect whatever sensitivities they have about the level of cooperation that we get, as much as we can. We try to respect that.
So I would not from here get into, you know, the specifics of what those arrangements are and those agreements are. We — we have good support from allies and partners there, and we appreciate that.
Q: Will they limit the ability to conduct air strikes if the president makes that decision?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the president hasn’t made that decision. So, I mean, I don’t — I don’t think that getting into hypothetical arrangement discussions now about a decision he hasn’t made is very helpful.
What I would like to do is bring you back to what we’re doing now, and that is we’ve intensified ISR coverage, and that will continue, that we are now building some assessment teams, initially just a couple, but then eventually it will grow, to help us get better eyes on for what’s going on, both inside the Iraqi security force and on the security situation on the ground.
And then, you know, once we have better and more fulsome information about the situation, then a decision about any follow-on activity can be made. I mean, we just aren’t there yet in the process.
Q: John, how concerned is the Pentagon about the ISIS fighters taking over the Al Muthanna chemical weapons facility? Are there any chemical agents left there that could be used in any form or pose a threat to anyone?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, look, any — any progress they’ve made has been of concern to us, clearly. On the specific question about this facility, it’s an old facility, and our best understanding — and we don’t have perfect information — but our best understanding is that the — that whatever material was kept there is pretty old and not likely to be able to be accessed or used against anyone right now.
Now, again, information isn’t perfect, and any time — any progress they’ve made has been of concern. But I — I — we aren’t viewing this particular site and their holding it as a — as a major issue at this point. It’s frankly — should they even be able to access the materials, frankly, it would likely be more of a threat to them than anyone else.
Q: (OFF-MIC) assurances on that specifically?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any Iraqi assurances that’s based on our own conclusions.
Q: Because you’re going to have these units eventually in northern Iraq to collect intelligence on ISIS, and especially in northern Iraq, how certain — the question is force protection — how certain are you that, number one, you can protect the safety of the U.S. troops you send and, number two, if they do get into a firefight, if they get wounded or hurt, are you absolutely — is the department absolutely certain you can get them out to the correct level of trauma care within the hour? Does — does the golden hour apply in this situation? Can you get them out?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, the — force protection is always a priority, and it remains a high priority for the secretary and for the department. No question about that.
These — these teams will be, as you said, they’ll be assessing and advising. They will — they are not being sent to participate in combat. Their role is not combat mission.
And this is not unusual. I mean, these are the kind of missions that we perform all over the world with other militaries, in Africa, in the Pacific region, all over the place, Americas. Force protection remains a priority. We don’t talk about the details of how we — necessarily how we — we go about enforcing that.
They — these advisers, just like troops that are doing typical — the other advising missions elsewhere around the world have the right of self-defense if they need to. And, obviously, just like anywhere else in the world, if there’s a situation where we need to get them to medical care, we’re going to do it as quickly as we possibly can.
Q: But this is a combat zone, in fact. It’s not just somewhere in the world where you have military advisers. This is a hot combat zone. So — and the golden hour has always applied in Iraq and Afghanistan. So does it still apply in Iraq? And, by the way, are they getting combat hazard pay?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our combat mission in Iraq ended in 2011. This is not a combat mission.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This is not a combat mission. These personnel are going to be doing assessments and eventually helping us with advisory missions and helping gather intelligence, Barb. That’s just the way it is. It is not a combat mission.
I don’t have details here today about the, you know, pay and benefits issue. I’m happy to take that back and take a look at it, but this is not a combat mission. And if somebody gets hurt, wherever they get hurt around the world, we do what we can to get them to the medical care as quickly as possible.
Q: (OFF-MIC) ISIS areas of influence, it’s spreaded all over the northern part of Iraq and also in the northeastern part of Syria. Why — why targeting ISIS in Iraq and not in Syria? Is the Pentagon considering to counter ISIS in Syria, for example?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s — we’re not at the targeting phase here, Joe. The president made it clear that the mission right now has increased. Basically, it’s to get more information. So we’ve intensified ISR over the country, and now we’re going to be flowing in some assessment teams and then eventually some advisers to help, among many things, helping us gain a better site picture about what’s going on.
We haven’t been present inside Iraq in any mass since 2011, so there’s a lot to learn, a lot to gain here. And that’s — that’s the mission we’ve been assigned; that’s what we’re focused on. Your question presumes that a decision to strike is coming or that — or that it’s inevitable or that it has to be done. And I just don’t believe that that’s where we are right now.
Q: (OFF-MIC) the advisory mission is part of a process to counter ISIS. So why not assessing the situation ISIS capabilities on the border with Syria? That’s — that’s my question.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: You’re right. Part of the mission is to assess ISIL. I said that at the outset. Three things. One of them is to assess ISIL, and that’s what they’re going to be doing.
Q: Quick follow-up. Do you have the number of total U.S. military personnel in Iraq with the 300 advisers that are going?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the president said up to 300 advisers; it may not reach that level. We have — we have assessment teams to flow in there. So as we speak today, there are the less than 200 that were already assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq at the embassy that we have maintained that basic level of staffing since — since the combat mission ended in 2011.
Since then, as you know, over the last weekend, we brought in another 170 to assist with static security requirements at the embassy and associated facilities. That’s the total right now. So it’s roughly 350 to 370, something like that. I don’t have the exact number that were — that are attached to OSCI, but it’s less than 400 total inside Iraq right now.
Q: Thank you. It’s my understanding that these military advisers have been granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq. Can you confirm that? And what assurances have you been given specifically by the Iraqi government?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, a couple of things I’d like to say. One is that we’re doing — we’re performing these missions at the request of the Iraqi government, so this isn’t an invasion. This is — you know, we’re doing this at the request and in consultation with the Iraqi government.
As we do elsewhere around the world, we will ensure that our troops have the appropriate legal protections. Immunity is — that’s not a fair way of characterizing this. It’s legal protections so that they can operate as they need to operate. And I can assure you that they will have those protections.
Q: But you don’t have a SOFA?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: And we don’t need a SOFA. There are — there are — there are places where we do these kinds of missions where you don’t have to have a SOFA, as long as you have a process through which those legal protections can be ensured. And we’ll do that here, as well.
Q: Where do you operate that you don’t have a SOFA?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Hang on a second. Hang on.
Q: Where do you operate where you don’t have a SOFA?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll get — there are other places. I’ll get back to you on that. But let’s not get hung up on the — on the — the document here. We’re going to ensure that they have the legal protections they need.
Q: I’m hung up on the document, though.
Q: So is this something different than diplomatic immunity that the Office of Security Cooperation has been operating under? Is there a new agreement with the Maliki government for these specific advisers that are coming out?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We are — we are in constant — constant consultation with the Iraqi governments about these arrangements and about these extra personnel. And I can assure you that they will have the legal protections they need.
Q: Will you ask for full immunity?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s not — it’s — it’s about making sure — usually these legal protections are about making sure that if an incident happens that the individual is — has due process through the — through the military justice system. That’s what we’re talking about.
Q: Do you have it in writing from the Iraqis? Do you have something in writing to that effect? Or is that just a gentleman’s agreement between the diplomats who are over there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t — we are — we’re working this carefully through the Iraqi government. They will have the protections they need.
Q: (OFF-MIC) writing?
Q: Does that affect the timing of the arrival of these advisers?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. As I said, the first — the first…
Q: But they haven’t been re-tasked yet, those guys.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, but they — but they — we intend — they will be. And I’m confident that the legal protections that are needed will be in place. They will be in place.
Q: But those guys are there as part of the embassy, the — the people that are already there, so they have the protection of — the same protection as diplomats. And the question is the follow-on teams.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right.
Q: (OFF-MIC) the timing of the follow-on teams, the (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I do not anticipate any challenge to the timing of follow-on teams as a result of this issue. We’re working this very carefully and closely with the Iraqi government, and I can assure you that they will have the legal protections they need.
Q: And when do you expect the follow-on teams to start arriving?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Very, very soon. I can’t give you a date certain. I would say at least the initial — again, we’re going to start with a couple of teams using intrinsic assets that are already there that will be between three and five additional assessment teams coming in. And they will be largely — as I said before — re-missioned from assets and personnel that are already in the Central Command region. I would expect that you’ll start to see additional teams flow in, outside the first couple, over the next week or so.
Q: So this is a whole issue that we — you know, there’s no residual force post-2011 over this issue, and the domestic Iraqi politics around this were very complex. Why are you so sure that these individuals will have protections? Why wouldn’t it possibly founder on the same issues as extending protections in 2011?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, first of all — first of all, what we were talking about post-2011 was a fairly sizeable force of American troops that would remain in Iraq for a long period of time. What we’re talking about here is a very small number, up to 300, whose mission will be of a limited duration. That’s one.
Two, these additional teams are being sent at the request of the Iraqi government. We were starting from 2011 from a place where we already had tens of thousands of troops there completing a combat mission, so this is at the request of the Iraqi government. So, I mean, we’re — we’re doing this — obviously, it’s in our national interest, as well, but clearly the Iraqi government sees it as beneficial to the security of the Iraqi people.
And then, as I said, we’re in constant consultation with them. We’re not concerned about the fact that there won’t be the appropriate legal protections for these extra personnel.
Q: What kind of limited duration? Will that be codified in this agreement, three months, six months, one year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not negotiating the terms of the legal protections that — that are going to be afforded or what the timeframe is, so I wouldn’t be in a position to tell you that. And, yes, we’re pursuing something in writing. I think there was a question about that. The secretary is absolutely committed to making sure that our troops have the legal protections, and he would not do that on a nod and a wink.
Q: Define what you mean by limited duration. I mean, the — what the president said yesterday didn’t seem to have any time limits on it.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I don’t think there’s been a firm deadline on this, so I wouldn’t get out ahead of that, but we’re not reintroducing American troops into Iraq for a lengthy stay, and certainly not to participate in combat action. This is — this is a discrete, measured, temporary arrangement to help us — and I said at the outset — to get eyes on the ground, to figure out what’s going on and get a better sense of it, to create the kind of intelligence that we need should the president decide to take other action and also to give us a sense of — of the state of the Iraqi security forces.
Q: Temporary means weeks, months?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going characterize it. Temporary. This isn’t going to be a long-term mission of the United States military. It’s not an occupation; it’s not an invasion. Again, back to what I said before, this was at the invitation of the Iraqi government.
No, Justin, I’ve already got you.
Q: No, no, actually…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, no, I’ve already got you. Marcus?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I know, all your questions are more important than everybody else’s.
Q: Is there an estimate on how much this is going to cost to send these troops in? And will there be money for this mission in the upcoming OCO request?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not — I don’t know what the cost estimate is going to be for this. But, clearly, you know, this is an important mission, and it will be funded appropriately. I can’t tell you whether the funds will come out of OCO or whether it will be detailed in the coming OCO request.
Q: Do you have any information of when that request will go to the Hill?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I do not have an estimate on when that’s going to go to the Hill. As you heard the secretary say the other day, you know, we do anticipate it to be substantially smaller than the roughly $80 billion what was put as a placeholder.
Q: But not to totally split hairs on this, but the legal protections, just to be clear, when you say legal protections, do you — that would include U.S. troops being immune from Iraqi — the Iraqi judicial system, from Iraqi prosecution?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That is a central, core theme of the kind of legal protections that we pursue, yes.
Q: (OFF-MIC) and then, second, have you seen any early read on any kind of equipment that these up to 300 advisers would bring with them? I’m not — I mean — I mean, helicopters? Will they take vehicles?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, no, no, Courtney. I mean, these are — again, these are — the first — the first tranche are going to be really more guys doing assessments. And so they’ll be — they will be — they will have personal arms to protect themselves, if they need it. I mean, as I said, they’ll have the right of self-defense.
And I think the same will be true for any follow-on teams of advisers that would come. They’ll be certainly armed and equipped to defend themselves, but this is not — this is not a major mechanized movement here. This is — that’s not — that’s not the goal. Again, the president was crystal clear: This is not a combat mission.
Q: How will they get around the country?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, as I said, they’re going to be embedded, at least initially, at the higher headquarters level down to only about the brigade level. So they’ll be at staff levels. And to the degree they…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, the — they’ll be transported to — to the places they need to be transported. I don’t exactly have every detail of — of — right now how they’re going to get everywhere they’re going to get to, but they’ll be — they’ll be — they’ll be placed at the appropriate level at the appropriate time.
Q: Can I do a follow-up on that, please? Thank you. Could you better describe these forces? Is there a reason that you’re only calling them advisers and units? Can you just say that they’re Green Berets, or is that not something you want to do publicly?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They will — I think the secretary in his statement called them special operators. They will be special operators. And I’d remind you that these are — that’s a mission that special operations troops perform routinely. It’s part of their…
Q: (OFF-MIC) we can call them Green Berets in our reports?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. They’re special operators, and I’m not going to detail beyond that. I’m not going to detail beyond that.
Q: And could they be laying the groundwork for air strikes in the future?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll say it again. They are to do some initial assessments and to eventually advise. That’s the mission. As you say, calling in air strikes, that connotes a combat mission. This is not the mission that they have been assigned. They are not there on a combat mission. And I’m not going to speculate…
Q: … these men would have nothing to do with that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We aren’t even at that stage right now, Justin. In order — in order to help the president make future follow-on decisions, we have to have more information about what’s going on, on the ground. That’s what these troops will be doing. And that’s all they will be doing.
Q: (OFF-MIC) mentioning yesterday of a joint operations center in the north. Is that — is that Erbil?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: All I can say right now is northern Iraq. I don’t believe that, I mean, final arrangements have been made for the exact location.
Q: (OFF-MIC) I did ask you the same question last Friday. Can you confirm now if there are any Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Iraq? Any information on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I can say is that we certainly have indications that there are some Iranian revolutionary operatives, Revolutionary Guard operatives in Iraq, but I’ve seen no indication of ground forces or major units or anything of that sort.
Q: (OFF-MIC) are cooperating with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll let the Iranians speak for their activities and who they’re talking to. But as I said, we have indications that there are at least some operatives inside Iraq. And, look, Iran has — their interference in Iraq is nothing new, and so I think it needs to be taken in that light.
Q: (OFF-MIC) do you have any number?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Small numbers would be our best indication. I’m not going — I’m not going to put a number figure on it, Joe. Small, small number. I’ve got time for one more. What?
Q: Three hundred advisers?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Tony?
Q: A couple of questions on the joint operation centers. What capability will they give the Iraqis that they don’t now possess?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Operation centers in general provide a forum and a hub to coordinate the sharing of information and intelligence and to also foster real-time communication between a headquarters element and field elements. So I think it — it makes perfect sense that one of the things that these initial two teams will do is help us assess what the resourcing would be for these two joint operation centers. But I suspect they’ll perform the same sort of function that operation centers perform all over the world.
Q: Now, as you set up assessment teams and as you set up JOCs, what is the military situation right now north of Baghdad, while all this assessing is going on? Is — is it a stalemate right now between the ISIL and the Iraqi security forces?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know that I would call it a stalemate, Tony. Clearly, ISIL still — still crave geography, still — are still involved in pretty violent activities.
What we are seeing, though, is that — and I said this the other day, but — that in and around Baghdad, it does appear as if the Iraqi security forces, aided by some Shia militia, no question, are stiffening their resistance and — and fighting where and when needed to.
I mean, you’ve all been following this — the issue of the oil refiner there in Baiji, and it’s still unclear as to — in whose hands it sits, but it’s also very clear that Iraqi security forces have been engaged in trying to prevent it being taken over by ISIL.
So we’re starting to see some cohesiveness and some fight. And that’s certainly encouraging. But nobody’s calling it a stalemate, and certainly nobody’s, you know, willing to stop monitoring it or to stop having a shared sense of concern about the progress that ISIL has made, and very quickly so.
Q: I need to ask about the Sunday — there’s going to be a missile defense test. Nobody’s going to care about this until Sunday afternoon if it hits or misses. What is the significance of this test, in terms of — if it misses, what’s the implications? And if it succeeds, what will it allow the United States to do that it can’t at this point do?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, let me just…
Q: Because you’re going to get calls Sunday afternoon (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, you’re right. We are conducting another test of the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle. I actually said that without tripping on it. This weekend, it will be the second test of this particular vehicle. Admiral Syring testified to this earlier. We feel very good about this test coming up.
Now, it’s not — it’s not been a program without its challenges. If it doesn’t go well, first of all, we’re going to let you know how it goes. There’s no question about that. And if it doesn’t go well, we’ll do what we did last time. We’ll — we’ll review it, we’ll investigate it, we’ll figure out what happened, what didn’t happen, and how to make the necessary fixes.
We believe that — that we made the fixes needed to be made from the last test, which was back in December of 2010, and so we’re looking forward to this, and we look forward to having a successful test. If it doesn’t go well, if it doesn’t succeed, it doesn’t at all mean that the program isn’t worthwhile or that it’s not going to go forward. We’re committed to this, we’ll learn from it, and we’ll test again.
Q: Well, what if it hits? What if it does succeed? What’s the significance there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I mean, it’s — it’s a very significant capability. I mean, I’ve heard it compared to, you know, hitting a bullet with a bullet. In this case, at that altitude, it’s — I think the challenge is more like hitting a BB with a BB. I mean, so it’s — it’s pretty significant if it works.
And it just shows, once again, I think our — our utter commitment to the ballistic missile defense program and capability and what that provides for the country and for our allies and partners.
I’ll take one more. John?
Q: Admiral Kirby, an individual apparently killed himself this morning at Arlington National Cemetery. Do you have any information about that, as to whether he was a veteran or an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, John, thanks for the question. I don’t have a lot of information. I know that — I know that Arlington police are on the scene, of course, as well as Army officials out there.
We’ve seen — we’ve seen the reporting of it. And I just — I wouldn’t be able to comment one way or another about what happened and why. But clearly, if it’s true, it’s very, very tragic. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.
But, again, I wouldn’t get ahead of an investigation which is just now starting.
Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.