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Welcoming Ceremony Remarks

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Pentagon Auditorium, Wednesday, November 09, 2011

He [Secretary Panetta] really is a spy. (Laughter).

Mr. Secretary, Vice – thank you for those welcomes.

Senator Reed, General Scowcroft, Secretary DeLeon, colleagues from around the Department and from other agencies, partners from industry, friends and family who have come from far away and in some cases long ago, and above all my precious, perfect wife Stephanie, daughter Ava, son Will -- thank you all for being here and for this welcome.  Your service, mentorship, friendship, or love helped make this honor possible for me and I thank you.

I am deeply grateful to President Obama and to you, Mr. Secretary, for the privilege of serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense.  My children think that's a much better title than Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, which they always said sounded very "underneath" (laughter) and none of their friends had ever heard of.  As Bismarck said, it's a title you can use when you want to travel incognito (laughter).  They really wanted me to be CIA Director (laughter).

I learned that I was to be the 31st Deputy Secretary of Defense, or about one every two years, and I didn't know whether one is to think of this more like Moore's Law or more like Japanese prime ministers (laughter).

When we first discussed this job, Secretary Panetta made it clear to me that he expects his Deputy to be prepared to act and speak in his stead, to help organize his decision-making, and to manage Departmental matters, except where they require his personal attention.  Most importantly, Secretary Panetta expects all this to be done with the same heart, the same integrity, and the same dedication to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines that he brings to the job.

You told me you wanted me to be your alter ego, and in recognition of your own straightforward and memorable style, I want you to know I'm going to do my frickin' best (laughter).

We take on these tasks at a time of enormous consequence for national defense, as two great currents flow together.  The first is the current of strategic history.  For a decade our Department has been riveted of necessity on two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These have not yet ended, but they will.  At this moment we have the opportunity – and really the obligation -- to pivot this Department to new challenges that will define our future.  While we have been fighting the world has not stood still, our friends and enemies have not stood still, technology has not stood still.  Now we must meet these changes and in some places catch up with them.  To do this we will need to let go of the old and familiar -- forces, weapons systems, institutions, habits -- and grab hold of the new to build what Chairman Dempsey calls the Joint Force of 2020.  It is important to note that we would need to make this strategic pivot even if we had all the budget we wanted.

But we will not have all the budget we want, since a second great current springs from the nation's need to put its fiscal house in order.  It therefore seems certain that we are entering a period of subsiding, not ever-increasing, defense budgets -- the sixth such period since World War II.  This budget downturn needs to be managed carefully to avoid the pitfalls of previous downturns.  In this circumstance there is only one course for us to pursue, and that is to put our most honestly and carefully reasoned proposals in front of the President and Congress.  As Secretary Panetta has said, we do not need to choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong national defense.

At this time of great consequence, Mr. Secretary, I look forward to joining you and the President and the Department’s great leadership in protecting this great country, serving the troops who serve us, and leaving more secure world for our children.  Thank you.

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