Carter: DOD Manages Major Strategic Transition as Budget Shrinks
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 18, 2013 Despite budget reductions as large and steep as those following Vietnam or the Cold War, the Defense Department is managing a major strategic transition that has military, geopolitical and technological elements, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.
Nearly 1,600 miles from Washington, at the annual Aspen Institute Security Forum in Colorado, Carter spoke with David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, about the department’s present and future.
One of the first shifts the nation must make, the deputy secretary said, must be away from the decade after 9/11, characterized by counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and by wrestling with the problem of counterterrorism.
“Those were the riveting, defining, daily preoccupations of all of us,” he said. “At the same time, we all know that era is coming to an end and that we need to turn our minds now and our eyes … to the opportunities and challenges that are going to define our future.”
Carter said one of the biggest U.S. opportunities in the present era has come from shifting the great intellectual and physical weight of its military institution from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific region.
“You'll see that happening now,” he said, in terms of troops, ships and aircraft in the region, and investments that are of particular importance to that theater, including a new bomber, a new variant of the Virginia-class submarine, new tactical aircraft, new electronic warfare capabilities and others.
In addition to the military dimension of the shift is a political dimension, Carter said, with U.S. alliances in the region.
The deputy secretary named Japan as a rising military power in East Asia. Other alliances include South Korea, the countries of Southeast Asia, longtime U.S. allies Australia and Thailand, and India, which he called a natural U.S. security partner.
In the area of new capabilities and technological investments, Carter said cyber is an important thrust for the United States.
Sanger asked about the Senate testimony in March of Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, who described 40 new cyber teams working under Cybercom -- 27 of the teams for defensive operations and 13 for offensive operations.
The members of Cybercom’s 40 new teams come from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, Carter said, and make up a cyber force of about 4,000, at least for now.
“We're starting this way because I want to start fast,” he said. “So we're taking the people we have and then slowly growing the new people that we need. That's the management strategy.”
This is not a money problem, he added, but is a management problem.
“It doesn't cost a lot. And fundamentally we're spending everything we can think about spending intelligently for, notwithstanding our budget hassles, because this is an area that we are protecting even as other military capabilities will be cut,” the deputy secretary said.
Carter said the Defense Department divides the cyber mission into three pieces.
“The first piece, and by far and away the most important piece for us, is to defend the integrity of our own networks because … everything we do depends upon the use of information systems, including ones that are connected to the Internet,” he explained.
The second piece is to develop, deploy and do intelligence preparation for our U.S. cyber capabilities to nullify cyber advantage on the part of others, Carter said, adding that offensive cyber operations generate some of what he called the “tricky issues” that involve privacy and unintended consequences.
Authorities for offensive cyber operations “are the kinds of things that are serious enough that they're reserved for the president. … We have thought these through. We are thinking them through. And it's fair game for a wider conversation,” he said.
The deputy secretary added that cyber is a new field of warfare. “And obviously, we want to do things, as we try always to do, in a way that is lawful and … that our population can support and that is consistent with our values,” he added.
The third piece for DOD is to play a supporting role with law enforcement and Homeland Security in defending the nation's networks, Carter said.
“This defense of the nation business … is very important. Government can help and needs to help but … many of the civil networks are so poorly protected themselves that it is very difficult for us to claim that we can come to their aid,” he added.
They need to protect themselves first, Carter said. “A lot of our critical businesses are more vulnerable than they should be, and … they should take steps to harden themselves,” he told Sanger.