United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

At Naval Academy, Carter Details Strategic Tasks for 21st Century

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2013 – During an address on national security leadership today in Annapolis, Md., Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter detailed for 250 midshipmen four strategic tasks facing the Defense Department as the 21st century unfolds.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Deputy Defense Secretary Carter answers a question from a midshipman after speaking to a group of about 250 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Nov. 22, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Carter spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy, and as he began his remarks told the midshipmen that after nearly five years serving President Barack Obama and defense secretaries Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, first as undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics and for two years in his current position, on Dec. 4 he will return to private life.

“There is no higher calling and no job on the planet more satisfying than serving our sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, DOD civilians and contractors, who together make up our total force, as well as our veterans and military families,” the deputy secretary said.

Carter, trained as a physicist, told the midshipmen he was honored to address them in a hall named for a personal hero of his -- four-star Adm. Hyman Rickover, who directed the development of naval nuclear propulsion and today is known as the father of the nuclear Navy.

The deputy secretary added, “It was 50 years ago today that another personal hero of mine … was assassinated. Two years before he was killed, President Kennedy spoke here at the Naval Academy. And in a speech to the midshipmen of his time, he told them, ‘The answer to those who challenge us so severely in so many parts of the globe lies in our willingness to freely commit ourselves to the maintenance of our country and the things for which it stands.’”

Carter said Kennedy’s call to action is why the deputy secretary was speaking at the Naval Academy today, to give the future leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps a sense of the security challenges and opportunities ahead for the world and what will be asked of them in the years to come.

The four strategic tasks Carter described involve maintaining a technological edge over U.S. adversaries, rebalancing defense resources and attention to the Asia-Pacific region, strengthening the nation’s web of international alliances, and internalizing lessons learned from the past decade of war.

“Because, now more than ever, maintaining a technological edge over our competitors is the surest way to deter conflict,” Carter said of the first task. “We must continue to invest in technologies that will be essential to 21st century defense.”

That is why Obama and Hagel have insisted that DOD go out of its way to protect critical investments, even in times of budget austerity, he said, adding that DOD is increasing its investments in the cyber domain because of the growing threat cyber poses to national security and critical infrastructure.

And in the space domain, Carter said, the department is rebalancing its portfolio “to improve our capabilities to defend against threats, degrade enemy space capabilities and operate in a contested environment.”

The defense department is requesting funds for more sensors to increase space situational awareness and investing in jam-resistant technologies and new operating concepts to enhance the survivability of U.S. satellites, he added.

DOD is also investing in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and unmanned assets, including platforms that launch from land and sea, and operate well above the earth’s surface and deep under the sea, Carter said.

On the second task, the deputy secretary said, along with civilian counterparts from across the government, the department must fully implement Obama’s strategy to rebalance resources and shift attention to the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia is home to 60 percent of the world’s population, and countries bordering the Pacific Ocean account for more than half the global economy. The United States has been a Pacific nation for much of its history and will remain a Pacific power far into the future, the deputy secretary said.

“The logic of our rebalance is simple,” Carter explained. “The Asia-Pacific theater has enjoyed relative peace and stability for over 60 years. This has been true despite the fact that there's been no formal overarching security structure there, no NATO, to make sure historical wounds are healed.”

During those years, first Japan then South Korea rose and prospered followed by many other countries in Southeast Asia. Today India and China are rising politically and economically and the United States welcomes all, he added.

While the Asian political and economic miracle was realized first by the hard work and talent of the Asian people, it was enabled by two critical American contributions, Carter said.

-- One is enduring principles the U.S. has stood for in the region, including commitment to free and open commerce, a just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law, open access by all to the shared domains of sea, air, space, and now cyberspace, and the principle of resolving conflict without using force.

-- Two is the pivotal role of U.S. military power and presence in the region that provided a critical foundation for U.S. principles to take root.

Carter said the third task facing the department is continuing to strengthen the web of international alliances that have underwritten global security since World War II, and deepening new partnerships that will advance American interests and a just international order in the years to come.

“Working with allies and partners takes constant attention and hard work,” Carter said.

“As with any relationship, sometimes differences of opinion emerge and those differences must be worked through,” the deputy secretary added. “But remember this: the United States is the security partner of choice for the vast majority of nations around the world. This is a state of affairs that our adversaries and competitors don’t enjoy, and that gives us and our partners a tremendous advantage -- one worthy of our continued investment.”

Maintaining this advantage means continuing to invest in NATO and urging the United States’ closest European allies to do the same, Carter added, so as NATO winds down its Afghanistan operations it stands ready to address 21st century threats ranging from ballistic missiles to piracy to cybersecurity.

“It means reinvigorating crucial alliances in Northeast Asia, such as those we enjoy with Korea and Japan [and] breaking down bureaucratic barriers to increase security cooperation and defense trade with new powers such as India, an effort I’ve dedicated a significant amount of my personal attention to in the last several years,” he said.

Maintaining the advantage also means growing DOD participation and support for new multilateral forums like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to increase regional trust, transparency and cooperation, the deputy secretary said.

And, he told the midshipmen, “it demands that each and every one of you take personal ownership for strengthening our partnerships by being uniformed ambassadors for the United States everywhere you serve.”

The fourth task, Carter said, “even as we rightfully focus on and invest in the future, we must take care not to lose lessons gained through the last decade of war.”

Such lessons include the tremendous competencies developed and honed by our special operations forces, and the capabilities brought to bear by innovations in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and intelligence-operations fusion, he said.

“We must also institutionalize what we’ve learned about quickly responding to urgent warfighter needs -- for example, our rapid fielding of MRAPs and other [roadside bomb] countermeasures -- and ensure that in the future the department’s acquisition processes stay as focused on today’s fight as tomorrow’s,” Carter said.

The adversaries always adapt so the department must maintain a focus on agility, the deputy secretary said.

“This means constant personal attention from senior leaders on enabling rapid acquisition of new technology, it means maintaining flexible funds that can move emerging capabilities quickly from the laboratory to the field, it means identifying disruptive threats as early as possible, and it means rapid validation and assessment of solutions,” he said.

The focus on agility already has paid dividends, Carter said. The department has begun to use processes designed for Iraq and Afghanistan to upgrade munitions and targeting systems for operations over water to respond to the potential use of speedboats by Iran to swarm U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.

DOD also has developed and made prototypes for improvements to a penetrating bomb that would allow it to target hardened, deeply buried facilities, the deputy secretary added.

Last year the department decided to build the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, he said, a transportable system that can destroy chemical weapons stockpiles wherever they are found.

It was developed months before the United States knew it would be discussing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, he said, adding, “It is now ready for deployment whenever required -- a capability that enabled our government to include this possibility in its recent negotiations with Damascus.”

As he came to the end of his remarks, Carter told the midshipmen that they’ve chosen an exceptional time to become ensigns and second lieutenants in the greatest maritime force the world has known.

“The road ahead will not be an easy one,” the deputy secretary said, “yet the very fact that you’re sitting here today tells me the easy path isn’t what motivates you. The challenges of tomorrow will require all your talent and determination, and I’m confident you’re up to the task. This is what our sailors and Marines have the right to demand.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)


Contact Author

Ash Carter

Additional Links

Stay Connected