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Remarks by Secretary Carter at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference

Deputy Secretary Blinken, thank you for that warm introduction.  And thank you for your service to our country – on the Hill, at the White House, and here at State.  You’ve been a tremendous friend to me and to Stephanie and to our men and women in uniform…someone in the Situation Room we knew who always cared about them and their families – and you showed it.  It means a lot, a lot to them. Thank you.  And now you are leading our country’s incredibly skilled and experienced diplomats.  

I look around the room and see so many of you that I know personally and so many more that I look forward to getting to know and working with in the years ahead.  Thank you for everything you do; that’s going to be the theme of what I have to say to you.  Please go ahead and keep eating, I don’t want to interrupt the flow, and I actually have a lot to say because there’s a lot on our plate these days.

I also want to say I’m very grateful to the indefatigable Secretary John Kerry: for inviting me here today, and for his friendship and partnership.  I’m amazed at the energy and enterprise of John Kerry in this job, and it’s a great asset for our great country.  When he invited me to deliver these remarks a few weeks ago, I told him it would be a privilege for me as Secretary of Defense to recognize you in the State Department and your roles in our national security.     

And I actually spoke to him yesterday morning, before he flew out to Switzerland for one last signal check before today’s talk.  He tried some of his diplomatic tactics on me…but I declined to take his place and go there while he stayed here for these next few days…

But I’m glad he’s there today, and I’m especially glad to be here with all of you – 200 of America’s Chiefs of Mission…men and women working on the frontlines to advance our security, our prosperity, and our values.  And I am the first Secretary of Defense, I understand, to address this body and that’s a true privilege, and leads to a kind of question I’ll try to answer later: How could that be so?  Because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

But here I am, anyway, and it’s also a privilege for me to speak to you in this room because Benjamin Franklin, who was not only America’s first diplomat, he was also America’s first physicist, a fellow Philadelphian for that matter – but someone who might, and I think John Kerry is said to have said this the other night, could never be confirmed…But that’s a different question.

Earlier this week, as Tony mentioned, I spent the day at Camp David with President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah of Afghanistan, accompanied by Secretary Kerry, but also Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, our Director of National Intelligence, Director of the CIA, Deputy National Security Advisor, and senior military leaders.  And together, we addressed Afghanistan’s political, economic, and military future, with their leaders, who were working together because John Kerry brought them together into a national unity government by the way…and we discussed the future of their country, along with the adjustments to our troop withdrawal timeline that President Obama announced Tuesday – adjustments that promote our goal of ensuring that long our campaign in Afghanistan leads to lasting success.  Our discussions at Camp David were a reminder of what a truly integrated, full-court press on national security can look like – on just one particular, important issue, among the world’s many.

And that’s what brings me here today: to address why what the State Department does – what every one of you does every day – is critical for our national security.  And to strongly urge Congress to fully support every part of our national security budget, including yours here at State.       

Reviewing Whole-of-Government Efforts

When Thomas Jefferson became our nation’s first Secretary of State, he led this department, I’m told, with a sum total of two ambassadors, ten counselors, and three clerks – and his budget was so tight that he sold one of his horses and some furniture to send money to our missions overseas. 

State could still use a bigger budget.  And I support that.  But today, over 70,000 State Department personnel, including nearly 14,000 Foreign Service professionals, serve our nation around the world and here in Washington…and whom you lead.    

What hasn’t changed is that this team – along with so many others from agencies across our government, from Commerce to Treasury to Homeland Security – have to join forces…and must marshal, as the phrase goes, all elements of our national power to address the challenges and very bright opportunities that are before us in the world today.    

And what also hasn't changed is that, up and down...the chain of command, our men and women in uniform continue to rely on you, America’s top diplomats around the world, for your leadership, for your partnership, and for your deep insights in a turbulent and complex world. 

Although the term “whole-of-government” and “smart power,” are relatively new – but still already overused – the basic concept clearly isn’t.  It's been around from Sung China to the Holy Roman Empire, the idea of leveraging all  resources of state is an enduring principle of strategy and statecraft.

The United States mobilized perhaps the most important whole-of-government effort of the 20th century, namely the Marshall Plan.  And George Marshall – who was an archetypical whole-of-government figure who served as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and a general officer, and whose portrait I am hanging on my office wall – knew that security couldn’t be addressed in isolation.  As he put it, “restoring the confidence of the European people in the[ir] economic future…[and]…the guarantee for a long, continued peace will depend on other factors in addition to …military strength.”   

But working across our government has never been easy.  Many, maybe most Secretaries of Defense and State – and the shorter period of the history of Secretaries of Defense - didn’t exactly have a smooth relationship.

In the interagency process that produced NSC-68, for example, a famous document, the clash between Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson grew so acrimonious that it provoked Acheson to later write that Johnson’s conduct was so “outrageous” that “it did not surprise [him] when some years later he underwent a brain operation.” 

In the Reagan years, "Cap" Weinberger, for whom I worked, and Al Haig butted heads regularly, and were not actually on speaking terms most of the time.  

When I started my career during those years in the 1980’s, it was also common for mid- and even some senior-level DoD employees’ – for their world to exist solely within the Pentagon, just with occasional communication to the White House.  Many of them came up that way.  

Fortunately, we’ve made some headway since then. 

In the Clinton administration, when I worked for Secretary of Defense Bill Perry – and Warren Christopher was here at the helm in State – Bill would frequently admonish us on his DoD staff never to complain about our State colleagues.  And Chris did the same.  And Bill, in fact, made a point of not backing us up in senseless interagency squabbles.  And so did Chris.  And that word filtered down real fast.

And I’m pleased to report today that, although I’ve been Secretary of Defense for only a little over a month, Secretary Kerry already have a great relationship based on, first of all, the fact that we’ve been personal friends for 20 years, but also a shared recognition of the essential value of this partnership to the accomplish our nation’s mission.  And we work with a generation of national security professionals in both agencies who are actually steeped in interagency cooperation. 

Most of today’s senior officials cut their teeth on the multi-dimensional policy challenges we faced in Haiti and the Balkans in the 1990’s.  And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan against terror brought even closer interagency cooperation. 

Secretary Gates even testified before Congress in support of the State Department’s budget submission – what he called a “man bites dog moment.”  And I have done the same.  Senior Defense Department officials have become some  of the most vocal constituents for greater civilian involvement not just in conflict zones, but in -- also in what I have called “preventive defense,” or the influencing the strategic environment to prevent and deter conflict in the first place. 

Our most battle-tested soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines – from admirals and generals on down – have come to see that, in virtually any context, ensuring victory requires much more than guns and steel.  In conflict zones, it requires good governance, reconciliation, education, and the rule of law.  And in addressing the wider catalogue of strategic challenges, it requires marrying the threat of force with financial and diplomatic leverage. 

Start with counter-terrorism – and our hand-in-glove cooperation to defeat ISIL. 

Today, our global coalition’s military campaign is putting ISIL on the defensive.  Just yesterday, the coalition that many of you in this room have built began conducting air strikes around Tikrit.  But we know – we know that defeat of ISIL requires an integrated campaign with equally potent political and economic maneuvers.      

I have said that ISIL’s defeat must be lasting.  And ISIL’s lasting defeat requires DoD to work closely with you here in the State Department to support the Government of Iraq and the nascent Syrian opposition, and to assemble and then fully leverage the commitment and resources of a vast coalition. 

It requires USAID to work closely with regional and global partners as refugees continue flowing into Jordan and Turkey. 

It requires Treasury to choke off ISIL’s resources, while Homeland Security, the intelligence community, and law enforcement together keep watch on our borders and prevent attacks on the United States, and our friends, and allies. 

For all these reasons, and with Secretary Kerry’s enthusiastic support, in my very first week in this job, in Kuwait I  convened diplomats – including some of you here today – intelligence officials, and military commanders from around the region to sit together at one table to assess our progress and think through  next steps in this campaign.          

Also consider the sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program, and against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. 

These are not your father’s sanctions.  Over the last decade, through its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Treasury has radically expanded and sharpened our sanctions toolkit, through close coordination with you in the State Department and the intelligence community.  These tools have allowed us to advance our interests with measured calibration and lower risk of escalation, while imposing real costs on those we’re targeting. 

These “financial weapons,” as Secretary Lew has called them, have ratcheted up pressure on Russia to end its aggressive actions in Ukraine, as State continues to apply diplomatic pressure and DoD provides military assistance.  And alongside our strong deterrent posture in the Middle East, sanctions have been instrumental in supporting Secretary Kerry’s diplomacy with Iran, as we seek to ensure Teheran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. 

As Secretary Lew himself has warned, even the most targeted sanctions “still have consequences,” and we must be careful to limit their collateral damage while coordinating closely with our partners and allies.  But over the last decade, these new tools have made an enormous contribution to our national security, and on occasion have helped keep troops out of harm’s way as a result. 

Next, in the aftermath of tragic humanitarian disasters, we have worked across our government, demonstrating that, in an hour of need, the United States shows up for our closest allies and friends. 

During my last tour in the Pentagon, in response to the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima – four years ago this month – DoD launched Operation Tomodachi, working in partnership with State, USAID, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and many others to assist our Japanese allies.  And as I believe Ambassador Kennedy would also tell you, this effort powerfully reinforced the U.S.-Japan alliance –demonstrating to Japanese citizens just how deep and how broad our alliance really is.    

We are also mustering integrated efforts to secure cyberspace – an area where, through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce plays a key role in setting critical standards.  The Defense Department is standing up its Cyber Command, which is supported by the National Security Agency and works closely with Homeland Security.  The State Department is leading an effort to build international agreement on norms of state conduct in cyberspace. 

Each of these national security priorities demands truly integrated operations across our government.  And especially in a constrained overall budget environment, we have no choice but to deploy our resources judiciously and comprehensively. 

To pack the fullest strategic punch, we need to do a better job developing joint strategies and pooling resources to execute them.

We need to adequately fund and empower your mission as our nation’s top envoys. 

We need to think big and anew – even reimagining the future of our national security machinery – so that we concurrently address classic strategic challenges, such as those in Asia, alongside campaigns that we’re conducting in the Middle East, while also tackling transnational challenges like global health security and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.    

We need to put whole-of-government muscle not only behind our challenges, but also behind our beckoning opportunities – from strengthening and modernizing our longstanding alliances…to advancing our shared prosperity through new trade agreements with Europe and Asia…to building new partnerships with rising powers like India. 

Investing in Our National Security Budget

But as Franklin said, “well done is better than well said.” 

We can’t just theorize and strategize.  We have to invest in a whole-of-government way.   

Over the last few weeks, I have testified before Congress on the Defense Department’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal.  Along with our country’s military leadership, I have been vocal and specific about the damage that sequestration-level budgets would inflict on our nation’s defense – on the need to restore readiness, on badly needed technological modernization, and on keeping faith with our troops and their families.  And I want to emphasize that current proposals to shoehorn DoD’s base budget funds into our contingency accounts would fail to solve the problem, while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning.       

And Today, I also want to be clear that, as Secretary of Defense I cannot – and will not – be indifferent to cuts threatening Secretary Kerry’s budget – your budget – here at State. 

Or to Secretary Lew’s budget at Treasury. 

Or to Secretary Johnson’s budget at Homeland Security.

I cannot be indifferent to the vital national security responsibilities across our government – just as I cannot be indifferent to my own at DoD.    

Because the military contribution to the Asia-Pacific rebalance could become less potent if we don’t also elevate our trade and diplomatic relationships to a new level. 

Because our military advances against ISIL could be fleeting, rather than lasting, without State and AID’s diplomacy and assistance.    

Because just as sequester engenders waste at DoD – leading to more program delays and more cost overruns – it will generate analogous waste at other agencies.   

And because if dangerous sequester-level budgets are imposed on State, Treasury, Homeland Security, and other agencies, the risks will ultimately accrue to our troops, and to our nation’s security. 

That is why President Obama has said he will not accept a budget that locks in sequester going forward …or one that severs the vital links between all the pieces of our national security – from State to AID to Homeland Security to DoD.

And the President’s commitment also speaks to a broader truth about the relationship between our society, and our economy, and national security.  At the most basic level, the future of our all-volunteer force turns on the health and education of the next generation.  And if we don’t have the infrastructure, basic research, and educational opportunities required for continued and sustained economic growth, we will ultimately shrink the purse that provides our defense dollars. 

We will imperil our military edge if we do not continue investing in the world’s finest institutions of higher learning and the basic research that underlies cutting-edge technology – not to mention their ability to attract the brightest minds to our shores.            

It would be especially tragic to neglect investments in the broad foundation of our national power at this moment – a moment when we’re otherwise poised for another American century – as we enter an energy revolution; as we enjoy significant demographic and economic advantages over our competitors; as we enjoy the robust and willing friendship of allies and partners while our potential adversaries enjoy few; and as we continue to cultivate the world’s most vibrant and innovative businesses. 

I firmly believe that these advantages, and American leadership, are ours to lose. But lose them we will if we don’t invest in our future, whether for gridlock or for folly.       

That is why President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and I will not waver as we resist proposals that undermine critical investments in all the fundamentals of our national security and national power. 

This is a time for statesmanship – a time for members of both parties to acknowledge the extraordinary turbulence in today’s world, and to come together behind a long-term budget that stands behind our strength and security as a nation.        

Full-Court Press on Trade

We also need Congress’ support for some of the most important investments we can make in our future prosperity – new trade agreements, including Trade Promotion Authority for the President.  We must be allowed to clinch new and historic trade agreements spanning from Europe to Asia. 

I offer this as a Secretary of Defense, convinced that a full-court press to strengthen our nation’s trade relationships will reinforce our national security – while neglecting them would undercut it. 

The arithmetic is straightforward. 

We know that 95% of the world’s customers live beyond our borders, and the spending power of middle-class consumers in today’s emerging markets is expected to increase by 20 trillion dollars over the next decade. 

Also consider that, just five years ago, the U.S. and Europe accounted for around 50% of global middle class consumption.  Asia accounted for about 20%.  Five years from now, the U.S. and European share of middle class consumption will shrink to about 30%, while Asia’s will rise to 40%.  And this trend will continue as Asia’s 570 million-strong middle class grows to about [3.2] billion consumers over the next 15 years.      

These facts help explain why, since the 2008 recession, our nation’s exports have contributed to almost a full third of our economic growth…exports that support more than 11 million American jobs. 

At the same time, these numbers tell only part of the story because today’s global trade in services – and many products – defies traditional “import” and “export” categories in the first place.  The U.S. jobs we can chalk up to international trade would be even higher if we fold in American workers’ outsize contributions to global value chains. 

The bottom line is that, as global trade intensifies, we need to be both at the helm, and in the thick of it.  Three years ago, trade accounted for about a third of global GDP.  In a decade, it could approach half of global GDP. America’s economy, and our security that depends on it, cannot afford to be left behind. 

By underwriting and accelerating economic growth, new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership stand to help restore our nation’s fiscal health and reverse dangerous defense cuts that are threatening our military readiness and technological edge, as I mentioned. 

Deeper trade relationships also serve our broader strategic interests.  Prosperity will allow our partners to devote more of their own resources to security – from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, to maritime operations and counter-terrorism. 

Shared growth generates magnetism: attracting new partners from around the region. 

While far from a guarantee, strong trade patterns also help build trust and raise the cost of conflict, while assuring our allies and partners of our long-term commitment to a shared and interdependent future…something that Secretary and General Marshall clearly understood. 

For all these reasons it’s no coincidence that the European Union emerged from habits of cooperation rooted in a fledgling coal and steel community, or that the United States’ first Free Trade Agreement – 30 years ago – was with the State of Israel.

For decades, the United States military has helped make the world safe for global commerce that, in full bloom, is delivering prosperity to billions.  Americans deserve to fully benefit from the historic opportunity that they as a nation have created, and that they as taxpayers have underwritten. 


One final point: a full-court press on national security means integrating our strategy.  It means integrating our budgets.  I've said that. But it also means integrating our values – into everything we do.  

Because the environments in which our military operates are fundamentally shaped by perceptions of what America stands for in the world. 

Because the conditions we put on military and security assistance show what we value, and help shape the next generation of military leaders around the world. 

Because the taproots of our military partnerships and alliances are the shared values we together defend and honor. 

Because the commercial ties that reinforce our nation’s security must reflect what we believe and hold fast to as a nation – from the fundamental dignity of every person…to intellectual property rights that spur and reward growth and innovation… to the opportunity to forge a better life for one’s children.     

And finally, because living up to our values – the values that you in this room – as the vanguard of this storied, flagship institution – the values you represent and advance every day…living up to those values is how we will sustain our global leadership and continue to inspire new generations of America’s young people to the calling of national security, so that the United States can continue to shine the beacon of hope and opportunity around the world.  All that stands in front of us, and thanks to you, is in our grasp.

Thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions.