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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter Aboard the Battleship Missouri

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
July 18, 2012

            Thank you, Admiral Watters.  Good morning, everybody. (inaudible).  Thanks for being here this morning, and what a spectacular vessel this is.  This is -- as you all know -- here, right here in Pearl Harbor, is where World War II started and right here on the deck of this ship is where World War II ended.  And the folks who fought that war were about your age, or some for you, who are younger, and they were -- they were the greatest generation of that time. 

            And I guess the main thing I want to say for myself and for Secretary Panetta is, you all are the greatest generation of this time.  And so, the first thing that we all have in our minds in Washington when we think about you and what you’re doing out here, is to thank you.  And I want each and every one of you to go home tonight, to your family or your close friends, or call your parents or whomever is close to you, and say that today, you were thanked by the leadership of the Department of Defense, and your country, for what you do.  We don’t take it for granted, and it’s incredibly important to us. 

            And I think for you, if you’re like me and most of us who work in national defense, it’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning and to go to work doing something that’s bigger than yourself.  What we do is bigger than us; it’s even bigger than the great country that we all serve, because the United States still provides security to much of the world. 

            Especially to the Asia-Pacific region, and you know what you do out here to build military capability that serves as a deterrent to violence in this part of the world; to build the partnerships, alliances and friendships upon which our security and the security of everyone else in this region depends; to build the capacities of partner militaries -- that’s being done right now, here, at the RIMPAC fleet exercises, right off the coast here of Hawaii, at this moment. 

            So it’s a good feeling to do what we do, and I hope you share and feel that good feeling. 

            And you all, right here, right now, in PACOM, are at the heart of the great transition that our country’s defense is undergoing in these coming years.  We have been, as you all know, understandably and justifiably preoccupied with two wars -- in Iraq and Afghanistan -- two wars of a certain kind.  Counterinsurgency war.  And with fighting a battle against the terrorism that we first saw evidence of on September 11th of 2011 [sic 2001].  Those are important things to do, and they’re important things to bring to an end.  And we have, and we will. 

            Iraq we have brought to an end, and in Afghanistan, we have a plan that is shared with all our coalition partners, to bring that down -- our activity in Afghanistan -- to an enduring presence starting in 2015.  What the President and Secretary of Defense have told us is that they understand that as this era -- the era of Iraq and Afghanistan -- ends, we need to lift our heads up out of the foxhole we’ve been in, look up, look around, and see what the problems are, and the security opportunities there are, that will define our future -- your future.  And those issues, those challenges and those opportunities are, very importantly, in the Asia-Pacific region, which you now serve.  So this is where our future lies, and you, right here, right now, are a very important part of that transition, that great transition that this great military is embarked upon. 

            Secretary Panetta was out here not long ago, the President was out here, the Secretary of State was out here.  And I’m out here in their wake, to show that when they talked about rebalancing our security effort to the Asia-Pacific theater, that we aren’t just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk.  And so in all of the allies and partnerships where we have forces deployed or forces rotating and acting in partnership, I want to check on their status -- our own people.  I want to check on the health of our alliances and relationships; make sure that we’re doing all the things that we can do, all the things that we said we would do, all the things that we’re planning to do, to rebalance our effort to this region. 

            We do this at a time of great strategic transition, as I’ve already said.  We also do it at a time when the country is trying to rebalance its own fiscal situation.  And the other thing I’d tell you is that we understand that, and we can do what we need to do here within the constraints of the amount of money that the country is able to give us -- in important measure because much of the capacity that we have been using in Iraq and Afghanistan we can now apply to this region.  So we’re going to do it, we can do it even within the budgetary circumstances that we find ourselves.  And so, as I go on from here to Guam, and then to Japan, and then to Thailand, and then to India and finally to Korea, I’ll be looking at our relationships with those countries and implicitly with all of the other countries in this area, and saying, "What is it that I need to go back to Washington and make sure we’re doing on our end to hold up our bargain with you, out here, who are at the point of the spear on this effort?" 

            There are a number of different aspects to the rebalancing here.  I’ll just say that it really starts with the principles that we stand up for, that we uphold, and that we have stood for in this part of the world for 70 years now, since World War II ended aboard this vessel.  I always try to summarize it in the following way: I say that this region of the world has enjoyed peace and prosperity for 70 years now.  It’s a remarkable achievement.  In that environment of peace and security, first Japan was able to rise; then Korea was able to rise; and now, yes, China, able to rise to develop their own people, to develop economically.  And that’s only possible in an environment of peace and security. 

            And that doesn’t come automatically out here.  It was the United States and our presence -- constant and strong -- in this region over a period of 70 years, that created that environment of peace and security.  We think that’s been a good thing.  It’s been good for us, and it’s been good for every other country in this region.  We aim to keep that going. We aim to continue to be the pivotal factor for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.   

            That’s what you’re about. It’s about the whole region.  It’s not about us; it’s not about any one country, or any one group of countries.  It’s about the entire region. 

            So that’s why we’re here; that’s why you’re here.  It’s a period, it’s a moment in history, that you should always, as you go forward in your lives and your careers, keep in your mind.  This was an important moment to be here, to be doing what you’re doing. 

            So once again, thank you from us in Washington.  Go home tonight, call a parent, say this to a spouse, to kids, to a good friend, whatever -- say that you were thanked today for what you do for our country, and that you were summoned to a new purpose in a new moment in our nation’s national security history. 

            I look forward to getting a chance to chat with some of you, standing out here in this lovely weather -- a lot better than Washington.  So please come on up.  We have some photographers, we can take pictures, we can chat a little bit, I’ve got coins.  And once again, well done, thank you. I have high hopes for you and high expectations of you.  Thanks in advance.

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