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Remarks by Secretary Carter in a Microsoft Breakfast with Military Leaders in Seattle, Washington

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
March 03, 2016
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MODERATOR: -- community, the philanthropic community, the education community, the public sector and governmental community, let us give a warm welcome to all of the military leaders we have with us here this morning.

(Applause.)

It is such a delight to have all of you with us, in particular those of you who have important leadership roles at the bases here in the region. We know that your service and your leadership is not only vital for the nation, but it's important for our state. And so one of the ideas we had in bringing the secretary here was an opportunity to get us all together so we'd have more of an opportunity to meet. So I think we're making some good progress on that, which is terrific.

But of course, the main attraction is the 25th secretary of defense, Ashton Carter. It is a slight exaggeration to say that he has more degrees than the first 24 secretaries of defense put together, but it's only a slight exaggeration.

When he was an undergraduate at Yale, he managed to major in both physics and medieval history. I don't know how much those two intersected, but they're two really interesting disciplines. And he went on from that to being a Rhodes scholar, studying theoretical physics at Oxford. He's had a distinguished career in so many respects.

He's an individual who has been an academic leader at both the Kennedy School at Harvard on the east coast, and the Hoover Institution at Stanford on the west coast. He has published 11 books and over 100 articles and he has been connected in a variety of ways with the Department of Defense throughout his career.

From 1993 to 1996, he served as an assistant secretary of defense, where he had important responsibilities for our strategic and defense policy issues. Then he rejoined the Department of Defense in 2009. He was first an undersecretary, then he served as deputy secretary, really the COO for the entire department and the 3 million members of our military, and since 2013, he has been the 25th secretary of defense.

He's going to share some opening remarks. We'll have a Q&A. We'll open it up to questions. Please join me in welcoming Secretary Carter.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Thanks, Brad. Appreciate it.

Thank you so much, Brad.

And thank all of you -- thank all of you for being here.

This is the way it ought to be -- the military community and the larger community together; the security imperative and our competitive and technological imperatives coming together, reinforcing one another.

So this meeting, which was Microsoft's idea and I really salute you for it. I'm grateful to have the opportunity. It signifies everything we need to do to protect our people and make a better world for our children.

So I thank you all for what you do every day in that cause individually, but for coming together today.

Governor, thank you for being here. You honor us with your presence.

And I -- I -- for what I call our folks, our -- our family, everybody, just looking out here at our guys in uniform, I just have to say that -- people say what was it like to be secretary of defense, you know, you have all these burdens; you have all these -- I say, "No, look how proud it can be of these people." I'm so proud to be the secretary of defense for our military.

And Steve -- (inaudible) -- is one -- one guy who is here who I go back with a way, which is Steve. We were just talking now. We go back to Iraq -- back in another cycle and he did absolutely amazing things there, and now holds down a major part of our responsibility here. And our responsibility here is the topic about which I thought I'd make a few remarks and then we're going to do -- Brad's going to ask some questions, and then we'll -- I'll take questions or comments from anybody out there.

The theme is the importance of the bond between the U.S. military and our fellow citizens in so many domains. It's not something we can take for granted as generations change, as technology changes, as society changes. And people are, I know, and they tell me all the time are very grateful for what those folks do for our country. They know that it's the finest fighting force the world has ever known. They're glad of that.

But they also expect that it will stay that way 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. And I have the responsibility of fighting today's wars and also making sure that we can dominate tomorrow's security landscape.

Earlier this week, I gave a speech down in San Francisco about the role that the Defense Department plays in ensuring the security of the global marketplace, upon which Seattle depends. I was in San Francisco at the time -- San Francisco depends. And we do this. We do it in every domain -- air, land, sea, space, cyberspace.

And we do it so companies like Microsoft and the others represented in this room can do what they do best -- helping empower people through technology and helping our people reach their full potential. This is a role that America and its military -- this global role -- have had since the end of World War II; one we continue to fulfill today. And it's one we intend to continue to fulfill, even as we enter what really is a new strategic era -- engaging with a security environment that's dramatically different from the last 25 years.

I want to give you a sense of what we're focused on these days in the Pentagon. There are no fewer than five central evolving -- central challenges that drive our planning now in the Defense Department -- our planning, our budgeting, our activities, our operations -- namely, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism.

And I'll briefly describe each of them to you this morning before I go more deeply into the issues that I know are top of mind for this community.

The first two of those challenges -- China and Russia -- reflect in a way a return to great power competition. One is in Europe, where we're taking a strong -- have to take a strong and balanced approach to deterring Russian aggression on the continent of the kind we've seen.

Second challenge is in the Asia Pacific, the single most consequential region of the world to America's future -- half of humanity, half of the economy, only growing; where China is rising, which is fine, but behaving aggressively, which is not.

Meanwhile, two other longstanding challenges pose threats to specific regions. North Korea is one, and that's why our forces, and we never take our eye off this, our forces on the Korean peninsula remain ready, as their slogan goes, to fight tonight -- not something we want to do, but something we're ready to do.

And the other is Iran, because while the nuclear accord is a good deal in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, we must still deter Iranian aggression and check Iranian malign influence in the region, and protect allies and friends, including especially Israel.

The fifth challenge, very different from the four and critically important, is our ongoing fight against terrorism, especially ISIL, which must be and will be dealt a lasting defeat, most immediately, in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria where we're accelerating our campaign in every dimension, including cyber, by the way, as well as where ISIL's is metastasizing around the world. We're doing it in North Africa. We're also doing that in Afghanistan, where we continue to stand with the Afghan government and people to counter ISIL and Al Qaida.

And at the same time, all the while we're continuing to work with other government agencies on protecting our homeland and protecting our people here. We don't have the luxury of choosing among these five challenges. We have to deal with them all.

But we do have the ability to set a course for the future -- a future that's uncertain, but that will certainly be competitive and demanding of America's leadership, our values, our military edge. The forces and capabilities we have based here in the Pacific Northwest are and continue to be a critical part of that -- the ships and submarines that patrol the seas, ensure the free flow of commerce; to the cyber mission forces that help protect and defend networks online; and the troops and airmen who are building and strengthening our relationship with our many friends and allies in the Asia Pacific.

They're our -- our military is the greatest first and foremost because of the people -- the people represented here and the people they lead. That's why we have all the friends and allies around the world, and our antagonists don't. People like to work with our folks. They like to work with American soldiers. They conduct themselves decently. They're competent. They like -- they like working with them. And they like the values that America stands for. That's attractive.

And that -- those people and those values are two of the things that make our military the greatest. But the third is and has been for decades and decades, technology -- the strength of our connection to technology and innovation. And we need to innovate. We need to do it -- do it together for the future because that's the way to make sure that we have the finest fighting force in the world tomorrow, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

So one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build and to rebuild bridges between the Pentagon and communities like Seattle and San Francisco and Boston and many others -- all places where companies like yours -- ones represented in this room -- continue to thrive and innovate and benefit our society and our security. And I'm going to be actually visiting some of them while I'm out there.

I visited some yesterday. I'm especially grateful to Microsoft for building that bridge from the other direction, from your public service sabbatical -- this is a big deal, by the way -- program, public service sabbatical program, I encourage others to do the same thing; high-level engagement between DOD leaders and your CEO, Satya Nadella, which I'm very grateful for; and now here today, through connections at the community level.

We need partners like Microsoft and the others in this room because I always tell people we don't build anything in the Pentagon. That's not the American way. The Soviet Union tried that; didn't work out very well for them. We have the best technology because we have a connection to the most innovative technology community in the world. That's why.

And that's been true for decades and it's still true. But the context is changing. When I began my career in this business, most technology of consequence came from America and much of that from the government. Now, American technology is still strong and government investment -- $72 billion a year in our case this coming year -- is still strong. But there's no question the global technology base is commercialized and globalized compared to when I started out.

That's a very different environment within which we have to keep an innovative defense. So to make sure that our military stays the best in a changing and competitive world, we're investing aggressively in innovation from everything -- undersea drones, cybersecurity, missiles that can fly five times the speed of sound, things I -- we don't talk about because we want them to be surprising to anybody who tries anything with us. We're doing a lot.

One important place we're investing is cybersecurity. Like so many businesses here, we in the Defense Department rely abjectly on network security. None of our stuff works -- the planes, ships, tanks, soldiers and everything, they need the network to be effective. So defending our networks and our weapons systems is job one for me in the cyber area. They're no good if they've been hacked.

And here, I have to say, Microsoft has been a great partner to DOD. We're making a department-wide transition over the next year to the much more secure Windows 10 operating system. This is a big deal. It's unprecedented for both DOD, and I believe for Microsoft as well. And it means that 4 million desktops, laptops and tablets will be better equipped inherently to defend themselves against cyber threats.

And I'm looking forward later today to seeing how Microsoft is pushing the envelope in cyber defense when I -- (inaudible) -- its new cybersecurity operations center later today.

As DOD makes these investments, we're also doing more to connect with America's innovative business and technology community. For example, last year I opened a defense innovation hub in Silicon Valley and plan to do more, by the way, to explore ways we can better partner with companies here on the West Coast -- essentially, an outpost of the Pentagon on the West Coast.

There's also a new Defense Digital Service, which brings coders in for what we call a tour of duty. They come in -- these are talented people who think they want to do something that matters, something of consequence, go home and tell their family that they did something that's bigger than themselves -- the noblest thing they could do.

And they come in -- you know, they're not going to make a career, but -- they're not going to join. They're not going to be part of the government. But they come in for a year or two, or a project, and make a contribution to us.

And the leader of the Defense Digital -- Chris, where are you? That's Chris Lynch over there -- is the -- is -- is my head of the Defense Digital Service. I brought him with me.

He's been a serial entrepreneur in the tech world, living in Seattle, actually, for a time -- even spent some time at Microsoft. And since Chris has been with us, he and his team have solved some really important problems for us.

I'll give you just one example of one thing they -- they dived in and took on, and that is improving data sharing between DOD and the V.A. to make sure our veterans get access to their benefits.

That mean -- may sound like something that we should've done right in the first place, but the reality is we didn't, and Chris and his team came in there -- crack people -- turned the whole thing around in a few weeks.

He's done such a good job cutting through red tape that he even gets to look like that in the Pentagon. Stand up, Chris.

(Laughter.)

(inaudible) -- in the Pentagon every day.

And that's not all we're doing. Yesterday I announced two other important initiatives. One is the DOD is going to invite vetted hackers to test our cybersecurity under a unique pilot called "Hack the Pentagon".

This is similar to the bug bounties that Microsoft and other companies have, and it would be the first one ever in the entire federal government. And the objective here is to let the white hats help us find vulnerabilities before the black hats do.

They do it for free, they do for sport, they do it for the distinction of having done it. I hope they don't succeed, but if they succeed, we'll learn something. It's a great idea, borrowing best practices from the outside world, where they can apply to us, and using them to improve ourselves.

Another initiative is that I'm creating a new defense innovation board to advise me on how to remain innovative in the Defense Department -- how to build that bridge to the technology community, how to look at ourselves in the mirror and see how can we change to be more competitive, take advantage.

And we'll always be different, right -- we're the profession of arms. It's never going to be the same. It's not a company -- it's the military. But that doesn't mean we can't learn things from people who have been innovative outside.

I'm very pleased that Eric Schmidt, from Google's parent company, Alphabet, has agreed to chair the defense innovation board for me, and I hope we'll see some innovators from the Seattle area joining that board as well.

They'll advise me and those who come after me on how DOD can better connect to innovation and make better use of it, including, as I said, changing ourselves where that's appropriate. I often say that we in the Pentagon -- I really mean -- have to think outside of our five-sided box.

I want to make sure there's enough time for me to answer your course questions. Let me close by saying the obvious, really, which is this is a tremendous time of -- of excitement, not just because of the dangers we face, which I'm confident we'll overcome, because we have the resolve and the strength and the will and the force to do so.

But because it reminds of a different era, and one we can replicate -- the kind of collaboration between companies, the government, academia that built the Internet and GPS -- and I remember those days -- or an earlier era -- communication satellites, the jet engine -- I have to say I don't remember that. I do remember the others.

For those interested in foreign policy and national security, there are lots and lots of interesting challenges and problems for you to work on. And it's also true for those interested in technology -- the intersection of the two is an opportunity-rich environment for the innovative mind.

These issues matter. It's not a game. This is about our protection and our security, and creating a world in which our citizens can wake up in the morning, hug their kids, take them to school, go to work, dream their dreams, live their lives. That's what it's all about, and you can't do that if you don't have security.

It's our job to provide that, and to do that well now and in the future, we have to keep thinking, we have to keep changing, we have to keep challenging ourselves.

And for those who are inclined to join this noble enterprise in one way or another, I just say the way I feel myself, which is that helping to defend your country and make a better world is one of the noblest things that you can spend your time doing.

I'm grateful to all of you in this community who directly and indirectly do that with me. Thank you.

(Applause.)

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Well, thank you again. Let me kick it off.

You know, you've spent the last two days in San Francisco, in Silicon Valley, talking there with folks, as you are this morning and today with us, here, about some of these issues. What kind of reception are you getting? What are you hearing from companies and individuals as you raise these issues?

SEC. CARTER: Generally very receptive, and -- and here's the reason: people in the innovative sector are there for a reason. They like to do things of consequence. They want to make a difference. They want to do things that matter.

And if you can acquaint them with the problems that we face, they recognize these things matter, and that's a huge magnet -- the mission all by itself is a big magnet.

Now, at the same time, they will represent to me some of the obstacles that I'm intent upon eliminating. And you -- you know what they are. It can be difficult to work for the government as a company, because we can be clunky and we can be bureaucratic and so forth, and we need to get better at that.

We had the whole Snowden overhang -- no question about it. And we have issues where the business interests need to be taken into account as we make our foreign policy decisions and so forth.

And we -- I -- my view is we -- we need to have that dialogue, because it's the unity that makes the country stronger. So to me, it's entirely a two-way street, and I -- I don't try to tell people what the solutions are. These are things that we need to figure out together.

We need to innovate together for the future, and I've -- I -- I find that the ideal partnership and a true two-way street is very attractive to innovative people.

Q: I was struck when (inaudible) and I had the chance to talk with you in January, and you put all of this in the context of the -- where the relationship and dialogue between the military and the American public has sort of changed over time -- over the course of decades. Can you share a little but of that?

SEC. CARTER: Yeah. I think it -- it has changed, and that's why having the community and our community -- our military community -- together, as they are in this room, is so important.

We have to recognize -- and I certainly recognize -- that two generations ago, everybody had fought in World War II. Everybody had some acquaintance, some connection.

And then there was a generation where everybody had a dad, or had an uncle, or something, and they had some way of connecting in a human way to the mission.

And it was a reflex of the technology community -- when I -- the way I was brought up by the -- the people who were generation leaders in physics, a generation older than me, had all been -- some of them had been part of the -- the older ones had been part of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War, and they -- they all knew -- they'd all worked with the government. They knew the importance of innovation.

So it was kind of in the blood, and they -- and they -- they inculcated in me the idea that the -- with your knowledge comes an obligation to contribute. And that was a little spark that got me into the thing in the whole first -- in the first place.

Well -- we just have to recognize that those conditions aren't the same now and so we have to reach out more. That's why I'm so intent, when it comes to recruiting new people, that we are able to reach into all parts of the population.

A lot of people say, why did you -- why do you want women -- who are qualified -- women who qualify and meet the standards? I just want to have the other half of the population available to me.

And it doesn't stop there. We are not as -- we don't -- we don't recruit effectively in all the regions of the country, equally. We know that. We're trying to do that better.

It's an all-volunteer force, so -- and we -- we get to pick the best. But the reality is that most young Americans don't meet our qualifications, and so we have to be able to pick and choose, and we have to reach into the whole qualified pool in order to get the very best.

And you have to retain people, and people have choices in today's world. It's not the old world -- the old -- people don't -- they don't think about their lives the same way, where you get on the escalator and wait for it to go up. They want to go around a jungle gym and get around -- get up by getting around.

And you have to take that into account. Generations change. Kids are different from me, I -- and I have to understand that, and our leaders need to understand. They're going to be different, and we need to understand where they're coming from.

So the whole -- and I talked about globalization, commercialization -- the -- the climate's changed. To me, that doesn't mean we can't have as strong a bond. We're just gonna do it a different way, and so -- but it's very important that we keep reaching out to our society, to our young people, generationally, and here, to the technology community.

And I'm so grateful for communities like the greater Seattle area and the whole state, governor, for the gracious way in which our people are treated and hosted. It's a wonderful -- it's a great -- it's the way it ought to be.

Q: These are the -- early days for your initiatives, bringing more young people in in different kinds of ways -- projects, as you said. What are you learning? What are you finding? What is the reaction of -- of young people as they come in?

SEC. CARTER: The first is, "show me a way I can do this, that I can give this a try." You know, that's the mentality of young people now. "I'll give it a try -- I'm not going to sign up to Ford Motor or sign up -- you know, to -- to -- to -- I'll give it a try."

So letting people give it a try is really important, and once they do that, and they feel the gravity of it -- and you get to go home, and you tell your spouse, you get to tell your kids, you get to tell your parents, "that's what I did all day," that's really attractive.

So if we can catch them -- if we can just get them for a little while, give us -- give us a -- a try, and then -- you know, we have to bend over backwards to look like an appealing place to work. Otherwise, people think we're an old institution.

We've been around for 270-odd years, or something, and people want to be part of something new. Well, there's a lot of what we do that is new, that's exciting, that's novel, and so forth, and you got to -- so you got to ignite that spark, and then the flame goes.

Now, you say, what are we doing? I'm not done yet. We're going to keep trying things. I think one of things that reflects the spirit of innovation is not just connecting to innovative people, but ourselves being willing to try things.

So we're trying this bug bounty thing. I think it's going to work out really well -- the Defense Digital Service, the -- the defense innovation board -- Eric and his colleagues will give us lots of ideas, and we'll keep trying things the way companies try things, and we'll keep looking around outside and seeing what is done outside that might work in our special -- I mean, we are a special environment.

It's a special community. It is the profession of arms. It's never going to be like anything else. But we can try things. So we're -- we're -- we're going to keep experimenting -- keep working at it.

Q: Part of this reflects just the important role the DOD is playing for the country today. And one of these issues that you talked about is cybersecurity, where we all read about breaches, certainly, every week. What is the role that you see the Defense Department playing in helping to keep the nation safe when it comes to cybersecurity?

SEC. CARTER: Well, my first priority is -- just parochially speaking -- is defending our own networks. We just have to do that, because that's the core of our security.

But we also have a role, and we can play a role, in the larger mission of defending the country against cyber attack. We do that -- we're -- that -- we do that with law enforcement and homeland security -- it's a little more complicated in terms of responsibilities.

But we have a great technical weight, a lot of expertise. We do a lot of the innovation in this field. We work with a lot of the companies that are cybersecurity experts in the country.

So we play a big role, and -- and I -- and I have to say that data security -- and this includes good encryption -- is a total necessity to us. And so we're strong supporters of that.

You know, cyber plays other roles as -- as well. In addition to -- to defense, there is offense as well. I mentioned ISIL -- I didn't go into the -- the ISIL fight here, but I spend a lot of my time on that, and many of you do here as well -- accelerating the certain defeat of this nasty group.

And -- you know, we're using air, we're using land, we're using sea -- we're -- we're doing a lot of stuff. Every day, new things to accelerate that defeat. We want to do more, and we're going to do more, first and foremost, in Iraq and Afghanistan -- I mean -- sorry, excuse me -- Iraq and -- and Syria.

But there, we're using cyber, because there's no reason why these guys ought to be able to command and control their forces. And just like always in warfare, you've attacked command and control systems -- you've done it with bombs, you've done it with radiofrequency weapons -- you know, jamming radars, that kind of thing.

We're using cyber, and -- in Iraq and Syria the same way. Black these guys out. Make them doubt their communications. Make it impossible for them to dominate and tyrannize the population and the territory they are, and just -- you know, whack away with -- with this, as we're whacking away with everything else. We have -- put an end to this fast.

Q: One of the things that you've referred to is the opportunity to bring in people of so many diverse talents, including the half the population that's -- that's female. How are you working to change the status of women in the military? Is the nature of warfare changing so much that gender doesn't matter the way it used to?

SEC. CARTER: I wouldn't go that far. Gender matters. We all know. It's a complementarity in some ways. There are some places where it doesn't matter, and other places -- for example, in many countries around the world, we have people -- and I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail here -- who are doing things in the midst of a society which very clearly doesn't share our values about men and women.

And you have to take that into account.

The studies that were behind, and the analyses and the surveys that were behind my decisions on -- said that there wasn't any reason why these specialties shouldn't be open to women. But they also cautioned that in many ways, that there would continue to be instances in which it was likely -- and this is because of demographics; it's because of physiology and other things where women would likely be less heavily represented than man in certain specialties. I think that's a reality. I told people this is not about quotas.

By the way, our women soldiers didn't want that. They want to qualify on the basis of qualifications. And so let's not kid ourselves. We need people who are qualified in everything we do. The purpose here is to have access to the largest pool of possible people. That's the objective, but they have to meet the qualifications. And our qualifications themselves have to be objective. They can't be old-fashioned either. They have to be objective, but there are qualifications.

MODERATOR: I'll ask one more question, and then we'll open it up. And we have microphones around. So, you know, think about what you'd like to ask.

Secretary Carter, by definition, all cabinet secretaries serve for a defined period of time and then they have a successor. As you think about the initiatives that you are moving forward, do you feel you have the support of people across DOD? Are you building something that you think can live on?

SEC. CARTER: Yes, I -- I do. And it's not because of me, but because of the logic and the compelling need is there. And therefore, I believe that the people who come after me, as I find the people who work for me now that understand this. It's not like they don't get it. I mean, we -- there is inertia, but that's different from resistance.

And people understand this is the way of the future. This is the way to keep us the greatest. They know that. So they're looking for ways to do that. And I'm confident -- you know, we've had a great string of secretaries of defense in our history. I'm confident we'll have good ones going forward and they'll -- they'll see the same compelling logic that I do. So I'm confident these things will be continued.

I'm just trying to get as much going as possible and try as many things, and see what will -- will work out. In the era after Sputnik, if you remember, in 1958, NASA was born; the DARPA was born; the National Reconnaissance Office that does the satellites, which we didn't used to be able to talk about, was born.

And so there are other times when it's been obvious to everyone that the connection between the technology community and national security was essential. All our people understand that and I'm sure my successors will as well.

MODERATOR: Great. Let's open it up. If there's a first question in the room -- over there -- John.

There's a microphone right next to you.

Q: Oh, thank you.

There was a --

MODERATOR: Why don't you introduce yourself?

Q: I'm John Bridge. I'm a retired captain in the Navy, but I run (inaudible) Jeweler right now.

This morning in the New York Times, there was quite an article about your San Francisco speech yesterday, and walking the fine line about the Apple situation. But I don't want you to get into that again. It was pretty clear what you said there.

But also in the New York Times this morning there was an article about Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia cutting out its support of the Lebanese government and Lebanon, sort of handing it over to Hezbollah. What effect do you see this on our defense in the Middle East?

SEC. CARTER: Well, first of all, I'm not sure I see that going on. The Saudis have a longstanding stake in the security of Lebanon. I imagine that they'll continue to play a role there.

You know, more generally, on Saudi Arabia, a couple of things. The Saudis have agreed with us to do more against ISIL. And I think that's one of the dominant themes of their policy overall. And we try to get them to do that. At the same time, we know that their major preoccupation, which is a preoccupation we share, is their security with respect to Iran and Iranian militias, which is the issue in Lebanon.

From my point of view, we have to combat both of these. They're both -- they're different. And we need our friends and allies to do both. And the Saudis have a special role to play, or can play a special role. They are, by the way, participating in the air campaign. I met with the deputy crown prince and the minister of defense in Brussels a few weeks ago when I was trying to get everybody around the world to do what we're doing, which is do more; let's finish this off here.

And we're happy to take the lead. We have the preponderance of the military capability, but we want everybody's help. And the kingdom agreed to that and agreed to air and ground, and helping the government of Iraq to rebuild, for example. So there are lots -- in Ramadi, which now the government has taken back from ISIL.

And there's lots of things the Saudis can do. They have a special role in the ideological dimension of this, which is something that, you know, Americans can't really address in the way that Muslim-majority countries can. And we're counting on them to speak up for moderation and decency. And also, to reach out to the people who live in Iraq and Syria who have to govern in the long run. We can help them beat ISIL, but we can't substitute for them.

In the long run, they have to hold ground that is taken from ISIL and govern the place in a decent way. And the Saudis and others in the region are going to have to help in that regard. And that's something where -- that, you know, we can do some of that -- Americans can do some of that, but they're very well suited to that role in a way that we'll never be.

MODERATOR: Looking around -- it's a little hard with the lights, so if you just -- there we go. Over here, and I think there's a microphone heading towards you.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

My name is Nate Miles with Eli Lilley.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Is the mic on?

SEC. CARTER: You're better off without it.

(Laughter.)

(CROSSTALK)

Q: A two-part question. One, when we first talked about ending don't ask/don't tell in the military, there was a lot of consternation. Since that piece -- policy has gone into place, it seems like it has run pretty smoothly, and I just wanted to kind of make sure that -- you know, at least from out here -- from a -- you know, just from our standpoint in looking at it, it seems like that -- (inaudible).

The second part of the question is domestic terrorism, and -- kind of get your thoughts on that, because a lot of this that happens, some of the -- not just the -- the terrorism that we see in -- in San Bernardino, but domestic terrorism, attempting to bait type hate group type deals -- do we as a defense department monitor that? Is that FBI? Who's in charge of all of that?

SEC. CARTER: Well, let me take the second part first. In the main, domestic law enforcement issues are the responsibility of the federal law enforcement people, and of course state and local people, who are very capable and respond first.

And so we do play a role, because we do, as part of our overseas warfighting, uncover these guys who are trying to stimulate people here in the United States -- get some loser to go out and do things -- and there's no question that the stated ambition of ISIL is to create these nests of adherents.

That's one reason why we have to eliminate the -- ISIL in its -- in Raqqa and Mosul, especially, so it'll be cleared of everything -- there is no such thing as a state based upon this ideology, so there's nothing to join.

And so that's our principal role, is we're going to eliminate it overseas. But we do play a role back here at home. We watch force protection for our own people, which is important as well, and you -- you raise a larger question here, which is very much on my -- as I said, I'm confident we will defeat ISIL.

But that doesn't mean terrorism's going to go away. I'm sad to say that's part of the human future, as far as we -- and the reason is, basically, a technological one, which is destructive power of greater and greater magnitude falls into the hands of smaller and smaller group -- groups of people -- even individuals.

And that's a reality those of us entrusted with protecting a civilized society are going to have to deal with for a long time. So I expect that security officials -- secretaries of defense, law enforcement officials, homeland security officials and -- they'll be dealing with aberrant behavior for a very long time, and therefore, we need to be good at it. We are good at it, but we need to get better at it.

With respect to "don't ask, don't tell," I think you are -- you are right. It basically worked out very well, for two reasons. One is that -- I have to say I'm very proud of the careful and deliberate and thoughtful way that the department went about it.

And this is relevant to the women in service thing as well, because one of -- what I said at the time I announced that decision is just announcing that positions are open is not successful implementation.

We need to work at what is successful implementation, make sure that everybody is -- understands what their responsibilities are, that we thought through all of the contexts in which men and women hadn't been mixing before, and now would be -- and you have to take it -- all that into account.

These are kids -- you know, our first -- kids first coming in are -- are kids, and you need to take that into account. And our people thought it through so carefully in the case of "don't ask, don't tell," and I'm confident -- and actually, they're in the process -- they've written those implementation plans -- all of the services.

And I basically accepted all of their recommendations for implementation. It's a very thoughtful job. I'm proud of the Defense Department in that regard, in the sense that, when they take something on, whether it's IEDs or "don't ask, don't tell," it's a very thoughtful, careful, deliberate job. Extremely proud of -- a learning organization.

The other thing is just generational, with respect to "don't ask, don't tell." The younger generation doesn't care as much as people who are older, in the sense that it wasn't as unusual to have a gay friend or a colleague, or work with someone. And so in that sense it's easier as well.

But there's no -- no question it's been successful. But I give the institution a lot of credit for proceeding thoughtfully, and -- you know, thoroughly in doing it. Well done.

MODERATOR: There's a question in the back.

Q: Thank you. Thanks for putting this on, first of all, (inaudible), and thank you for being here.

I -- I -- I did want to start by just saying, as a mother of a marine who's been in for a decade, I didn't understand, before he joined, the concept -- when I said, "thank you for your service." And I just want to thank all of the armed forces and -- for -- and I think it's great to get more involved in the community.

I'm Lisa Cohen with the Washington Global Health Alliance, and we have the privilege of working closely with Western Regional Command and Madigan on medical research. But my question today is more around the development piece of the defense, development, diplomacy.

And as we think about where so many of these groups are being incubated right now -- the ISIL groups, in whether it's Somalia, Yemen, other places -- what role does the Defense Department, from your perspective, have in helping prevent some of this before it explodes?

And -- and that's a very fine line to walk, so where do you think you have a role, and where don't you have a role?

SEC. CARTER: It's a very big role. And you're right, these -- things like ISIL take root in places that are poorly governed or not governed at all -- that's a problem -- and places where the security forces that are there and the forces of good and civilization can't -- don't have the -- are not organized enough to protect the population.

So one thing that we do -- very important thing, and this is a big responsibility -- by the way, those of you in the room based here in the state who work with partners throughout the Asia-Pacific do this every day -- which is build the capacity of security partners so that they can protect themselves and we -- it doesn't end up being a mess that involves the deployment of U.S. forces and the conduct of an actual war.

So we do that every day, and that's -- it's -- prevention is a critical part of my mission. And it's not just deterrence through power -- it is also working with our friends and allies so that they can do more to protect themselves, as so we don't have to do everything for everybody once it -- it -- it breaks down.

It is connected to development, which is larger, which is not a mission of ours, but is something the United States does, and that other countries can do as well, and -- and do do, which is to provide a better economic future for some of these places.

But law and order and structure and the structures of governance and security -- helping them establish that so that they can run a humane society -- that's something we do everywhere, all over the world.

As I said, we have all the friends and allies -- why is that? And that -- this is not -- this is Asia, but also Africa, Eastern Europe, where we've helped a number of countries there harden themselves against the kind of "little green men" phenomenon represented by Putin in Ukraine.

And so there are lots of places where this needs to be done. And we do have a role. And I thank you for the question because that's where you'd like to be, right? You'd like to be on the prevention side of things.

MODERATOR: Somebody's over here.

Q: I'm Jon Fine, the CEO at United Way of King County. I have one comment and one question.

So the comment is thanks for being here and thanks for your great presentation. You have obviously a distinguished educational background, but Brad neglected to mention that you overcame the handicap of your high school education.

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER: We went to rival high schools. You, too. You, too.

(Laughter.)

Q: But my question has to do with priorities. So, we don't have unlimited resources. You have a daunting task of the set of things that you're trying to do. In the business and community world, we also don't have unlimited resources and we have to choose from among what we do.

We have a larger defense budget than the rest of the world combined. We have -- seem to have an inability to close bases when we don't need them. We have a Congress handing you weapons systems that you don't want. How do you -- how do we as a government and community do a better job at choosing among all the many possibilities?

SEC. CARTER: Well, it's a good question. And we -- we in our department spend an enormous amount of time deciding on the shape. You talked about the size, but the shape of the budget. Where do we put an emphasis? Today, we're putting an emphasis, for example, and by the way, we quadrupled this in this budget -- to our European reassurance. And that means positioning equipment, heavy equipment, in Eastern Europe -- and we haven't done that in a long time -- rotate -- rotating forces in there, so a lot of our forces are familiar with the European environment; putting -- doing more exercises and training with the Europeans. All this takes money.

Over in the Asia Pacific, working with new friends, eager friends, in the maritime domain, especially with everything going on in the South China Sea; Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, old allies, strong allies like Japan, Korea, Australia -- all of these countries want to work with us more. And we need to make sure we keep the technological edge over our potential opponents there.

That's why we're investing so much in undersea capabilities, cyber capabilities. I didn't talk about it, but new missiles, longer-range missiles, more lethal ships -- the whole deal. So you have to look at the future and change the shape, and not just the size.

Now, as you do that, of course, in the end, Congress has the last word, right? That's what the Constitution says. So we propose a budget, and they have to agree to it and they obviously can change it and they do. And I don't want to shift all the blame to them for inefficiency, because I realize there is inefficiency, as probably all of you realize, there is in your enterprises. And we have to constantly battle it and make sure that we're spending the taxpayer's money in the best possible way.

And that means getting rid of tooth -- or tail, and making sure that we're investing in tooth instead. Closing bases is an example where Congress has stopped us, for the obvious reason. But it's a problem. And also stopping us from making force structure changes that we judge, when our people's best professional judgment is that we should have one system and not the other.

And obviously, we have a problem when Congress disagrees because it means that we're not using, in our judgment, the defense dollar in the best possible way.

Now, the best thing I can do in that circumstance is -- I can't change the Constitution, and don't expect to be able to do that -- is two things. One is to explain as clearly as possible and be able to defend as clearly as possible where you're spending every nickel, so that they understand the reason for it. And I find that, you know, if you take the time to do that, that wins most of the time because they understand it's a big world and they need to defend the country.

The other thing I'm really grateful for is that last year, and I hope this sticks, a bipartisan budget agreement was reached for the first time in a long time. And I've been asking for this ever since I became secretary of defense. We've got to come together in Washington and break the gridlock for such important functions as funding the federal government.

We can't go into every fiscal year with chaos, continuing resolutions. That's a money-waster, by the way, because it causes us to manage inefficiently. So, you know, the very people who are suspicious of how the government's money is spent, that will is thwarted by the kind of turbulence.

Now, what we got was this bipartisan budget agreement which I hope -- hope lasts us through fiscal year '17. That's important. I hope everybody can -- All I can do as secretary of defense -- I don't participate in these, you know, negotiations among the parties in the House and the Senate and the administration and the -- and the Congress. The only thing I say is we've got to come together on behalf of the country.

It's not good for the management of the place. I don't think it's fair to our people. They -- wonder -- what the hell is going on here? Why? Why? And it's -- it's -- it puts us at an apparent disadvantage with respect to friends and potential enemies around the world because it's -- they see what we're doing through the lens of what seems to be disarray, when actually in the main, we're investing well and we have an incredibly strong military. But it kind of undercuts that message to see this chaos.

So I -- all I can say is it's an election year, so it's harder, but, you know, for those of us in defense, we try to stay apart from all that. And I really hope the bipartisan budget agreement sticks.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one last short question. We'll go back to the corner over here.

Q: Thanks very much. Mr. Secretary, thanks for spending the time with us today. We appreciate you reaching out to bridge. There is a willingness and an interest on this side of the bridge. And to Microsoft and to each of you for coming today, thanks for investing the time.

My name is Jimmy Collins. I'm here today -- one of my roles is as board chair of a nonprofit, Hire America's Heroes, that is focused on helping for post-uniformed employment, including Guard and reserve that are only paid part-time in our force.

Sir, you mentioned the business of building and rebuilding connections. And each of us is executive in some institution here. As you look out across the nation, what are the indicators that you look for that those connections are robust?

And I'm thinking about future capacity. What -- what should we be looking for? What should we be encouraging our enterprises to engage in with the department and with other institutions?

SEC. CARTER: That's a great question.

First of all, let me thank you on the point with which you began, which is hiring veterans. A couple of observations about that, and then on to your other -- your other question.

The first is, for those of you who do that, and there are many companies here that do that, thank you. But you're doing yourself a favor, because our people are fantastic.

And it -- for some reason, that had -- that's had to dawn on corporate America over, I would say, the last five or seven years or so. And I know why, because I remember a time when it was very different, and the attitude towards the military was very different.

And today, fortunately and rightly, employers understand our people are fantastic. They've had experiences way beyond their years. Tremendous responsibility, discipline, organization -- they're fantastic employees, and I -- I think it's great that they're being hired. On the other hand, I hate it, because they're hiring good people away, and so retention becomes more of a challenge, because they're attractive.

Now, the only way I can console myself when a good person leaves or retires or goes off to do something else is by telling myself that means some kid is going to look at that person and say, "look, they -- they did really well by being in the military. I can do really well by being in the military," and they'll say, "being from there is good, so let me get in there," and it's going to help us at the other end of the pipeline.

But it is a competitive labor market, and as the economy picks up, we have to work harder. That's one of the reasons why the -- making sure we're tapping into the entire population -- that's including the female half of the population -- is so important.

It's a competitive world out there. Everybody wants our people, and that's great, but I need the -- I need the very best. Now what can -- can people do to -- to connect? The -- let's start -- well -- on the technology and the business side, taking an interest in our problems -- getting to know our problems.

Usually, when you get a company into a place like our Defense Innovation Unit Experimental down in San Francisco, and they become familiar with the mission -- the specific needs -- and they say, "hey, wait a minute, I have something that could make a difference there" -- they make that connection -- that business connection, so take an interest in our problems.

And the other thing is to -- you know, reach out to the bases and the people who are here. We have to try harder to connect our military to our society than previous generations needed to.

I know there's magic in that unit -- union. So it's not hard, once you've made the introduction, for the relationship to -- to develop. But we have to make that introduction.

And again, that's a two-way street. I look to you to help me do that. This meeting, which you inspired and -- and -- and hosted -- thank you -- is an example of that. And I hope you all go away -- maybe you met somebody you wouldn't would meet otherwise -- and introduce a young person to -- to what we do. Try to get them interested -- light that spark.

MODERATOR: Well, I think you've helped light a spark for all of us, so I know I speak for all of us in saying thank you, enjoy -- (inaudible).

(Applause.)

SEC. CARTER: That's great. Thanks.