By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (July 25, 2023) -- This morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III departed Washington on a multiday trip to the Indo-Pacific region. The first stop is in Papua New Guinea. He'll be the first U.S. defense secretary to visit the island nation, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said during a press briefing today.
Following his visit there, Austin will travel farther south to Australia.
"He will ... join [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] to meet with their counterparts for the 33rd annual Australia/United States ministerial consultations," Singh said. "Then he'll meet with U.S. and Australian service members participating in the largest military exercise between the United States and Australia: Talisman Sabre."
According to the Australian defense minister, this year's Talisman Sabre involves 13 nations and more than 30,000 military personnel; it will span about two weeks. Exercise operations will take place in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Norfolk Island.
U.S. Continues Support for Ukraine
Also today, the Defense Department announced the 43rd presidential drawdown of U.S. military equipment that will go to support Ukraine's efforts to defend its sovereignty against the illegal Russian invasion that began in February 2022.
The $400 million package includes, among other things, additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems; Stinger antiaircraft systems; additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS; 32 Stryker armored personnel carriers; Javelin and other anti armor systems and rockets; and over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades.
Since the Russian invasion began, the U.S. has provided more than $43 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
"One of the things that the president continues to say and the secretary continues to say is that we are with Ukraine for the long haul," Singh said of the latest security assistance package. "We are going to ... continue to assess what we can flow to them without dropping below our own readiness level."
Tomorrow, Singh said, DOD will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces.
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, directing equal treatment and opportunity for all members of the U.S. armed forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.
As part of the commemoration, Singh said, the department will host an event in the Pentagon courtyard that which features Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks and other DOD leaders as speakers.