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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter Aboard the USS Blue Ridge, Yokosuka, Japan

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
July 21, 2012

            CAPTAIN DANIEL GRIECO:  It is my pleasure to introduce to you our Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter. 

            Dr. Carter, sir, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to come aboard the USS Blue Ridge and address our sailors.  I know they greatly appreciate it, sir.

            DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER:  Thanks Captain Grieco.  Good afternoon everybody.  Terrific to be involved.  I was going to say beautiful day, but we're lucky because at least we have a few hours here in the clouds.  So I'm glad to be outside.  It's terrific for me to be here and be aboard this ship and be here with Captain Grieco, and I just had lunch with Admiral Smith.  Very good discussion and a very wise leader out here.

            You guys look terrific and you're -- you -- you're our greatest generation, and so proud of you, so appreciate everything you do.  I want you to -- I -- I guess the first thing I want to say on behalf of myself and Secretary Panetta is, thank you.  Thanks for everything you do out here each and every day.  I want you to go home tonight and tell a spouse, or call your parents, or tell your kids, or loved one, or a close friend or whoever is close to you that you were thanked today by the leadership of this department and by your country for what you're doing.

            It's a great thing, I think and we all share it here on this deck, to wake up in the morning and do something -- be part of something that's bigger than yourself.  And that's what public service and military service is all about.  It's a great thing.  A great feeling.  In fact, it's even bigger than the great nation that we all serve.  Because our nation is key to the security of the whole world.  And so you can't be part of a bigger thing than that.  But you are.  And you are indispensable to it.  So you should be very proud of the contribution that you make.

            This is an important part of the world to be in.  The East Asia region.  Feels like a long way from home, but this is actually where much of the future lies.  And so it's important that we be here because we're always going to be here as people and as a country.  We've been a Pacific power for hundreds of years.  We will be a Pacific power for hundreds more years.  And you do so many important things here.  This flagship has been part of so many important and historic things here.  Starting with the U.S.-Japan Alliance, but now going on to build partnerships and alliances throughout the region.

            You -- of course security is, at the end of the day, what we're all about.  I always say security is like air for -- like oxygen.  And if you have it, you don't think about it.  But the minute you don't have it, that's all you can think about.  And so our job is to make sure that people have security.  That they go home every day, they see their families.  They realize their dreams.  They live their lives and so forth.  And they can't take that for granted without security.  That's what we provide.  And it's the most precious thing you could possibly provide to our public.  That's what we do.

            In addition to that we -- we -- we serve ourselves and our people and our Allies in so many other ways.  You all were part of the Operation Tomodachi out here, which was so important.  It was important in two ways.  It was important to help people, but it also showed everyone out in this region, everyone out in Japan what kind of people we are.  Where we come from, where our values are, that we're here to help and that we're here to improve people's lives.  And that's a very big deal.  So even though it wasn't war fighting, which is fundamentally what we're about, it showed who we are and what we stand for.

            So you guys are at the heart of providing security for people in this region. And you are right here, right now, also at the heart of something else.  And that is a strategic transition that we are making.  We, the United States.  We, the Department of Defense, as we leave the era of Iraq and Afghanistan.  What do I mean by that?  We have been, and you all have been part of this, focused, very single-mindedly and of necessity, on the war fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We still are focused on Afghanistan.  That's what I wake up to every morning.  And we will be until we succeed there. 

            But we're out of Iraq. You can see the beginning of the wind-down in Afghanistan.  And it's time for us in the United States and in the Department of Defense to look up from the era of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Look around and say, what's next?  What's the next frontier?  What's going to determine our future in security?  And when you do that, when you do look up and you do look around, one of the first things you see is the Asia Pacific region and its central importance.  And so we're beginning to make that transition now from the era of Iraq and Afghanistan to an era where we're going to be focused on this region.

            And you are right here at the epicenter of that strategic transition.  That's a very important responsibility.  A very exciting responsibility.  The president was out here -- President Obama was out here a little while ago saying the same thing, and then Secretary Clinton was out here.  And Secretary Panetta, my boss was out here.  And he wanted me to come out because he says -- he said Ash, go out there and make sure that we're not just talking the talk.  That we're walking the walk.  That we're doing that in how we conduct our activities out here.  How we strike up our partnerships and alliances out here. Where we spend our money out here -- which is actually one of my responsibilities.  How we deal with our people out here.  And that's why I'm here. 

            I'll be going on to several other places in Asia, but of course I come to Japan first because Japan is our central, our anchoring alliance in this part of the world.  It's our oldest.  It's our strongest alliance, so it makes sense to come to Japan first.  I'll be going on to Thailand, to India, then back to the Republic of Korea.  Came up from Guam yesterday, which actually is important to us as well. 

            So in every place I go out here, I'm saying the same thing I'm saying to you, which is that this part of the world is very important to the United States.  Our military activities are important to this region because, you know, for 70 years this region has enjoyed peace and prosperity.  That's what allowed Japan to get rich -- which it is, a very prosperous place.  It's what then allowed South Korea to prosper and now China to prosper.  All that's fine.  But how did that happen?  Who provided that atmosphere of peace wherein prosperity could come?

            The critical ingredient of that has been the U.S. military presence in this region for 70 years now.  We aim to keep that going.  It's good for the region. It's good for us.  That's what you're part of.  So, congratulations for that.  Thank you for what you do.  Once again, go home and tell your families that today your country and your government and your department, our great department thanked you for what you do.

            Come on up here.  I've got some coins. I'd like to give everybody a handshake and say hello.

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