On Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., will depart the United States for Germany, where they will participate in the 20th iteration of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. It’s the first international travel for Austin since his recent hospitalizations.

“The secretary and the chairman will join ministers of defense and senior military officials from nearly 50 nations around the world to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine and reiterate that the United States and this coalition continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, and that we will not let Ukraine fail in its war to defend themselves against Russian aggression,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh during a briefing today.

In December, Austin underwent surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, related to a prostate cancer diagnosis. Following that surgery, Austin returned twice to Walter Reed as a result of complications related to the surgery. Austin is expected to return to Walter Reed tomorrow afternoon for a scheduled routine follow-up appointment with his doctors, Singh said. 

“The secretary continues to recover well from his medical treatment earlier this year,” she said. “And you can expect that he’ll be conducting these types of follow-on checkups from time to time.” 

Monday’s scheduled trip to Germany is the first international travel for the secretary since his surgery in December. 

The first meeting of the UDCG in April 2022 was spearheaded by Austin. Since then, as many as 50 nations have participated regularly in the monthly meetings to work together to provide security assistance to Ukraine. 

On Tuesday, the White House and the Defense Department announced the latest round of security assistance for Ukraine. Worth up to $300 million, the latest package was made possible through presidential drawdown authority. It includes, among other things, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 155 mm artillery rounds, 105 mm artillery rounds, and AT-4 anti-armor systems. 

This latest round of PDA is the first this year and was made possible after the Army negotiated a lower price for replacing supplies already sent to Ukraine. With that finding, funds became available to support an additional PDA package.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the U.S. has provided some $44.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. That assistance has come through either PDA, where with presidential approval equipment can be withdrawn from existing U.S. military inventory and then shipped to Ukraine, or through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, where the U.S. commits to buying new equipment for Ukraine from defense contractors. 

New Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer 

Also announced today is that Radha Iyengar Plumb will assume the role of Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer, following the departure of current CDAO Craig Martell. 

“Dr. Plumb currently serves as the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment and during her tenure has worked to address critical acquisition matters in defense of our nation, including maintaining and strengthening a robust national security industrial base and supply chains,” Singh said.

Singh also praised Martell for his service, over the past two years, as the DOD’s first CDAO. 

“Dr. Martell and the CDAO team brought together diverse talents and cultures of four organizations to advance data, AI and analytics for America’s national security, and delivered tangible results in a short period of time.” 

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