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Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Washington, DC

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
October 24, 2012

            DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON B. CARTER:  Well, thanks, Gordon, for that introduction, and, above all, for everything you’ve done for this organization and our Army all the years you and I have worked together.  Many thanks. 

            Congrats Mark, Sharon.  Well done.  Enjoy that retirement.  We’re all jealous. 

            Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, honored to be here with you today, truly an honor.  The AUSA is one of the most important and influential forums there is for discussing the current and future state of the Army.  So I appreciate the invitation to be with you today. 

            Secretary McHugh, John, General Odierno, Ray, we don’t meet often enough outside the Pentagon.  In fact, we have a meeting with the boss -- in like -- 32 minutes.  So I’ll go fast.  

            And I know you’ve had the opportunity already to speak to this group and have said many things, but there’s something that needs to be said that you two can’t say, and that is what a wonderful job you do leading the Army.  Everybody sees it.  The President, Secretary Panetta appreciate it, benefit from it every day.  So thank you two for what you do.  

            So many fine Army people around me all the time, and I wanted to mention two names, if I may.  First, just leaving me this week, my senior military assistant, General Ron Lewis.  Just got back from Afghanistan the night before last with Ron.  Super star, vision of the future for the Army, going down to the 101st, will deploy to Afghanistan in February.  And thanks for my -- the opportunity to have him while I did. 

            And somewhere back there is Major Jason Campbell, another one of my military assistants, another Army guy. 

            Stand up, Jason.  Another huge talent.  

            I’d mentioned I just got back from Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.  Met with Gary Cheek, our ARCENT commander in Kuwait; sailors aboard the Eisenhower out in the Gulf -- actually, south of Pakistan that day; Jim Terry, IJC; I see Rod there -- hi, Rod, good to see you -- his predecessor Katie Dahl at USFOR-A; and finally, Major General Bill Mayville out in R.C.-East.  And we went around his battlespace there -- so impressive. 

            And everywhere you go, these people are so impressive, working so hard, doing such great things in Afghanistan, especially to train the Afghan security forces so that we can transition security responsibility to their lead; to manage the tough logistical challenge of retrograding our equipment; and to continue combat operations all the while. 

            Many of you have contributed to this mission over the last decade, and thank you, for each and every one of you, for what you’ve done in Afghanistan; before that, in Iraq. 

            To all the soldiers and veterans of those wars in the audience today, you carried the fight to our enemies.  You supported those who sought democracy and peace.  You brought the war in Iraq to a responsible end, and set that country on a path to stability and prosperity.  You set the conditions for peace in Afghanistan, and have helped decimate the Al Qaida network.  In each of these missions, your service has been exemplary. 

            And finally, to our business partners from the defense industry gathered here today, thank you all for what you do.  I always remind people that we don’t make anything in the Pentagon.  That’s not our system.  Our system is to buy it from the industry upon which we depend.  And so they, too -- they, next to the fantastic people in our armed forces, are what make our military the greatest in the world.  That’s the combination.  So they’re part of the team, too, and thank you for what you do. 

            Especially to those of you who have hired veterans, and that includes DRS.  Our men and women in uniform have done such incredible things for our security, and it’s all of our responsibility to help them find meaningful careers when they leave.  And so for those of you in industry who have done so, thank you for that. 

            After eleven years of war, we have arrived at a moment of transition in this country.  We’ve ended one war in Iraq and begun the process of drawing down our forces in Afghanistan.  This transition from the era of Iraq and Afghanistan to the era to come -- this massive strategic transition -- is under way.  It’s reflected in the new strategy -- defense strategy that we created last winter.  It’s reflected in the decisions we’re still making about the future of our armed forces.  

            And today I want to talk to you a little bit about what this means for our Army.  And to understand where the Army’s going, you have to understand a little bit where it’s coming from.  And so let’s reflect a little bit further on what our Army has accomplished over the last decade. 

            Since September 11th, 2001, few organizations had to adapt as much as the U.S. military, and especially the Army.  Eleven years ago our country was called to fight enemies we did not fully understand in dangerous and unfamiliar parts of the world.  Back then, if you had said that the Army would spend the next decade conducting two counterinsurgency campaigns and a global campaign against a violent extremist network, many would have wondered if the Army could do it under such heavy operational tempo. 

            But our all-volunteer professional Army proved they were up to the challenge.  Today’s Army is a battle-hardened, strong, wartime total force.  Soldiers throughout the Army’s ranks have learned not only to command, lead and fight, but also to build, govern, advise, and assist.  They’ve learned to think strategically, as well as tactically. 

            In Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world, the men and women of the U.S. Army have displayed extraordinary courage, mental and physical toughness, and adaptability in demanding environments.  As a result they’ve received over 15,800 awards for valor, including six Medals of Honor, 25 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 660 Silver Stars. 

            Army soldiers, civilians, and families have sacrificed.  Over 4,700 Army men and women gave up their lives during this decade in service to us.  Over 34,000 were wounded in action.  And this must not be forgotten. 

            And also we must not forget that almost 60,000 soldiers remain engaged in combat in Afghanistan -- 60,000 -- out of 68,000 total servicemembers there -- 60,000, out of 68,000, Army. 

            And there are thousands more servicemembers, all services, outside the country providing direct support to operations, whether it be Carrier Strike Groups, projecting power from Air Force bases, doing the logistics and so forth for the theater and many other ways. 

            And beyond Afghanistan, that campaign, over 15,000 Army personnel are deployed on locations around the world, including Kuwait, Kosovo, the Philippines, the Sinai, Horn of Africa.  Over 90,000 soldiers and civilians are forward-stationed across the globe, in almost 160 countries.  That includes the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Honduras, Europe. 

            And despite all the talk of SEALs, Army special operations forces provide 75 percent of the operators to U.S. Special Operations Command. 

            And that is our Army today.  And our Army has learned, and learned again, in the past decade to conduct new missions to defeat adaptive enemies. 

            We never fought those massive tank battles against the Soviet Union in Central Europe.  In the wars of this millennium, our soldiers learned to conduct counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and security force assistance operations to product civilian populations, become discriminately lethal, and build up our partners’ capacity. 

            Powerful and above all adaptive -- that’s been the Army. 

            As always, the junior officers and NCOs were at the tip of this.  They became administer -- administrators and community liaison officers in addition to, of course, unequaled warriors.  They reached out to villagers one minute, and conducted kinetic operations the next. 

            Learning counterinsurgency was by no means easy for our conventional ground forces, but the necessities of combat drove our soldiers to develop effective solutions in real time. 

            In theater, a number of senior Army officers led the way.  Among them, General Marty Dempsey, General Ray Odierno, General Lloyd Austin, and others with whom I have the privilege of serving today. 

            In the middle of the Iraq war they helped the Army learn, adapt.  They couldn’t ask the world to stop so that they could think.  They had to design and execute a new strategy on the fly, with the fighting going on around them.  The entire Army had to do so. 

            That transformation is one of the exceptional stories of our age.  

            In the field, in universities and military institutions across the country, officers studied the history of military adaption, and sought to learn and adapt.  What the military once called “operations other than war” went from the periphery for that period of time to become the core of Army doctrine and operations.  Light infantry, aviation, special operations and civil affairs officers move -- moved forward to the forefront of the Army’s effort. 

            Innovation was born of necessity.  In conducting counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, our soldiers strengthened the connection between intelligence and operations to the benefit of both.  A few months ago -- and you all have done this.  I just happened to be in a company-level command post in one of our home stations.  And, you know, you look around your -- your -- yourself in a company command post today, and it looks like a division command post 15 years ago in terms of the capability and the information available to that captain. 

            Information moves quickly between theater and the United States, operators and analysts synthesize all source intelligence to identify targets, understand conditions on the ground, and meet U.S. interests. 

            The bin Laden raid is an excellent example, but just one example of that collaboration.  And that’s just one of the many successes of the integration of intelligence and operations that has gone on for the past decade. 

            So the Army has performed exceptionally well in Iraq and Afghanistan, and further afield over the past decade.  It has been strong and adaptive.  

            Now, those lessons learned, that new capability built, those leaders forged, that habit of adaptation comprise an enormous asset for this country going forward. 

            And we’re lucky for that, because today we find ourselves in the United States at a -- as I said, at a moment of great transition and national defense. 

            Thanks to the efforts of all of our servicemembers, the Iraq war is over, the Afghan war for sure is not -- for sure is not, but we are transitioning security responsibility to Afghan lead. 

            While we’ve been fighting, the world hasn’t stood still.  Our friends and enemies have not stood still.  And technology has not stood still.  So the time has come for us to look up, look around, look out to what the world needs next, to the security challenges beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. 

            We would need to make this strategic transition no matter what.  But a second force of change that we face in the Department of Defense is the need to keep our fiscal house in order, as outlined in the Budget Control Act, which Congress passed last year.  That law required the removal of $487 billion from our budget over the next decade. 

            To meet that imperative, we have to, first, spend the taxpayer’s dollars more wisely, and, second, ensure that every dollar is spent strategically. 

            So these two forces of change – one of strategic history, the other of fiscal responsibility -- led us to -- to design a new defense strategy last winter.  Under the leadership of Secretary Panetta, General Dempsey, Secretary McHugh, General Odierno -- the President himself was deeply involved -- all the Joint Chiefs, and the rest of the Department of Defense leadership, Combatant Commanders, Under Secretaries and so forth -- came together to design a strategy for our future force.  We’re building toward what Chairman Dempsey calls the joint force of 2020.  That’s our goal. 

            Secretary Panetta has said, our future force needs to be agile, it’s gonna be lean, it’s gonna be ready on a moment’s notice, and it’s gonna technologically advanced.  That’s the future Army. 

            And the Army will have a major role in each of the tenets of the new strategy -- each of the tenets.  Let me elaborate. 

            One tenet is to capture the lessons learned -- so hard learned -- in the past decade, including leadership skills, counterinsurgency, integrating intelligence and operations, and above all adaptability, and turn them to future challenges. 

            So, the Army will once again train to conduct full-spectrum operations and execute a full range of contingency plans.  It will do so through a flexible mix of armored, medium, light and airborne units which can be tailored and scaled for a range of missions. 

            Army units will be globally responsive.  They will be able to deploy anywhere on earth quickly.  Although we will not size the force to conduct major stability operations, we will maintain mobilization and regeneration capabilities in the case of a protracted contingency, which of course no one wants but can’t be ruled out. 

            The Army is adapting its force generation process to ensure ready and responsive forces for combatant commanders.  We know we can count on the Army for strategic land power.  It will be capable of many missions, at many speeds, in any type of environment.  It will be unrivaled in the world at capturing and holding terrain, both physical and human. 

            Second, the Army will play a key part in the U.S. government’s broad political and military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and continuing presence in the Middle East. 

            In the Asia-Pacific region, what we’re looking for is a peaceful, stable region where sovereign states in the region, all of them, can enjoy the benefit of security and continue to prosper, just as they have for almost 70 years. 

            Indeed, a major reason the states in the region have been able to rise and prosper is our pivotal military presence.  Our presence helped provide regional peace and security all these decades since the Second World War, and we intend to keep that going.  That’s what the rebalance is about. 

            Thanks to that historic security, first Japan rose and prospered, then South Korea rose and prospered, then Southeast Asia rose and prospered, and today, yes, China and, in a different way, India rise and prosper.  That’s a good thing, but it’s not a birthright.  It came in important measure because of our pivotal stabilizing role. 

            It’s worthy of note that seven of the world’s largest -- ten largest armies are in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Army will continue to partner and exercise with our allies and partners across the region.  We will build on our experiences from the last decade. 

            As one example, the United States worked closely with Australia in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, American and Australian senior and mid-level army officers know each other well, and our cooperation is increasing across the globe. 

            For instance, Australian Major General Rick Burns will join the staff of U.S. Army Pacific on November 4th as Deputy Commanding General for Operations.  Our forces are closer than they’ve been since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty in 1951.  

            States across the Asia-Pacific region will see more of the Army rotating through the region in coming years as the Afghanistan drawdown is completed. 

            A third tenet of our strategy is to continue to spread the burden and responsibilities of security by building partnership capacity.  Many of our allies and partners, some of whom are in this room, have contributed a tremendous amount to this mission over the last decade.  They have our gratitude. 

            Going forward, we will continue to develop innovative partnerships across the globe.  The Army will help build partner capacity through bilateral and multilateral training, and theater security cooperation. 

            One of the lessons the Army learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that soldiers need core regional skills.  So the Army is aligning its forces to different regions to build partner capacity more effectively.  

            The realignment begins this year.  2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division is aligning to U.S. Africa Command.  Units will rotate into Europe and other regions to bolster our alliances and partnerships, including through the NATO Response Force.  Army Corps headquarters will align with combatant commanders to better facilitate planning and training. 

            These are all good steps.  I urge the Army to continue to think creatively about how best to match its regional and cultural skills to requirements over the long term. 

            Fourth, the President was very insistent in the strategy that we protect the future; that we not do what’s very easy to do, which is to pull out the things that are most shallowly rooted in hard times.  And they’re the newest things -- and they’re the last things that you should be taking out in tough budget times, because they’re your most recent, freshest and best ideas.

            And accordingly, in the Army, we’re investing in networking, mobility, cyber, unmanned vehicles, space, special operations capabilities -- all of which have been so important over the last ten years, and we need to keep being good at. 

            Following the lessons of the last decade, the Army is investing in equipment, like new ground vehicles designed from the ground up as easily transportable, armored, combat vehicles.  And the Army will develop a new modernization strategy for the future. 

            As we look to the future, we need to ensure the health of our All-Volunteer Force.  The Army has done so much for our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a decade of conflict takes its toll.  We have a sacred obligation to take care of those who have served us in those conflicts. 

            I often think about what Secretary Gates used to say, which is that short of the wars themselves, we have no higher priority than to take care of our wounded.  And I know Secretary Panetta feels the same way.  And we all see it all the time, Saturdays at Bethesda -- Stephanie and I will be up there this weekend. 

            And today soldiers and veterans in communities across America grapple with the wounds of battle, seen and unseen.  We continue to do all we can to provide the best possible care to our wounded warriors, and to better understand and treat some of the signature wounds of the past ten years of conflict. 

            For instance, DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs just recently announced that we’re investing more than $100 million in research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress -- $100 million.

            Working with Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, General Austin, Secretary Westphal, and the rest of the DoD leadership, we’re taking steps to strengthen our mental health services across the Department.  We’re elevating the issue of mental health to the same level as physical health.  And we want all soldiers to know that seeking help when they’re in need of it is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

            Another issue that has troubled many of us, and that Secretary Panetta and I take extremely seriously, is suicide.  Suicide has increased nationally in every demographic over the last decade, not just the military.  But every suicide in our military family is one too many.  We’re doing all we can to prevent suicides among our servicemembers and veterans, to build resiliency and to help those in danger. 

            Finally, as the conflicts of the last decade wind down, we will support our servicemembers if and when they decide to transition out of the Armed Forces.  We commit to providing those who transition out of the military service with the training and support they need to find a job, pursue higher education, or start a business.  Under the President’s leadership, we have worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to fundamentally redesign the transition assistance program. 

            Some of the key features of the resigned [sic: redesigned] program are stronger career readiness standards and enhanced curriculum -- and by the way, I took the curriculum home a few weeks ago, read through it and, see how I would do, and it’s excellent.  And what it aims to do is to help servicemembers meet their personal goals for their post-military careers. 

            And we’re not alone in our effort, not by any stretch.  People and organizations across the country, including many in this room, have made a national commitment to help our servicemembers learn new skills and find work.  As our service men and women make this transition, this support of community and private organizations will be absolutely essential. 

            We’ve arrived at a moment of significant change, coming out of the decade of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Army’s story in the last 11 years is a story of dynamic and historic leadership at senior and junior levels.  Soldiers faced immense strategic and tactical ambiguity.  Through incredible focus and determination, the Army learned new skills and succeeded.  It became a new force, for a new era. 

            Historians will look back on this decade and write of leaders who made difficult decisions in the midst of conflict -- strategic decisions that changed history, and assured the well-being of others.  They’ll write of bravery and brilliance throughout the ranks, but they will also look back and ask how the Army responded to a new era. 

            That’s where we are again right now.  We face strategic choices about the kind of force we want to build.  Under the leadership of Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, and others, the Army and we are planning for the future.  It’s a moment of opportunity. 

            The question is: What kind of Army do we want?  The answer is: powerful and adaptive; not defensive -- creative. 

            The Army has a rich history from which to draw to make that adaptation, and I look forward to working on this next chapter. 

            Thank you all very much.