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Remarks at the Norwegian-American Defense Conference

It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you today. I want to thank David for the invitation to speak. Actually, the reason I'm here is because Øystein (Bø) asked me to be here, and when Oystein calls, I answer.


I want to express my appreciation for Deputy Minister [of Defense Øystein] Bø for hosting me and my wife in the beautiful country of Norway last fall, and the strong friendship that we have developed. Yet, we think a lot alike and therefore a lot of the themes that you're gonna hear me talk about are going to reflect the very same things Øystein talked to you about today. I also note Secretary [of Defense Ash] Carter's extreme appreciation of the strong working relationship with Defense Minister Søreide and he's also very much appreciative of her leadership in encouraging Europe to step forward in the way of security burden sharing.


Now from the United States perspective and as Secretary Carter says at every opportunity that he has, we feel that we are at a strategic inflection point in the strategic landscape. But the next 25 years in the national and international security environment are going to be much, much different than the last 25. And it is going to be incumbent upon all of us to really think hard about how to respond to the changes.


From our perspective, and from the U.S. perspective, we face five specific challenges. The first is a revisionist and resurgent Russia that is pursuing a path of confrontation, of aggression and coercion. It was just a little while ago in 2012 the United States believed that it was on the path to have a partnership with the Russian Federation, and as a result reduced the last two heavy brigades in Europe. But we felt that we have to talk about this a little bit more. We have to be able to respond to its activities since March 2014, when it illegally annexed Crimea and started to destabilize Eastern Ukraine with nuclear saber-rattling and essential threats against all of its neighbors, most recently against Romania and Poland, for hosting ballistic missile defense sites.


Second, we're managing a historic change in the Asia Pacific region. China’s development, which we welcome, some of its activities, especially in the South China Sea  and elsewhere, which we do not. There are serious concerns throughout the region and we're working with our partners there to help manage the rise, because it is, we believe, and it is important for all of the nations to benefit from globalization and to raise all of their citizens in an era of prosperity and sharing and trying to approach global defense challenges together.


We're certainly need a deterrent against North Korea and especially its pursuit against nuclear weapons – intercontinental ballistic missiles particularly. We're worried about Iranian malign influence around the gulf and threats that they pose to our partners and allies in the region, especially Israel.  And finally we're countering terrorism and violent extremism especially trying to accelerate the defeat of Daesh and its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and everywhere it's metastasizing around the world such as Libya.  All while we worry about protecting our homeland against threats emanating from all five of these challenges.


Now just as we are facing a change in strategic landscape, we think that Europe and by extension NATO, is also.  It now faces challenges from 360 degrees. To the east, west, and to the north, NATO faces the challenge of a resurgent and apparently antagonistic Russia. From the south and from within, it has problems with terrorism and violent extremism. And third, it faces a daunting challenge of migration that emanates from those same threats.


So the future, the next 25 years is going to be different for NATO, and Europe and the United States. The first 50 years of existence, of course NATO was really focused on the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and deterring them from an invasion of Western Europe, but the end of the Cold War NATO shifted its focus on collective self-defense to out of area operations. But after the attacks of September 11th, when the United States began operations in Afghanistan, we did so hand in hand with Norway and of all of NATO.


Norway was a very steadfast partner upon which we could depend then, and we know we can depend on now. They've repeatedly demonstrated the need to confront the enemies of freedom wherever they might be. So the United States places enormous importance on Norway's perspective and its ability to serve not only understanding the 360 degree threats which Øystein had talked about this morning, but also its also a 360 degree contributor to the defense of NATO not only in its immediate neighborhood but for expeditionary use as well.


Now in Afghanistan Norwegian soldiers have stood shoulder to shoulder with our own and performed some of the toughest missions there. The warrior spirit of Norwegian troops especially its Special Operations forces is well known and has been demonstrated time and time again throughout the conflict.


It's also been an extremely reliable partner in our fight against ISIL – Daesh  and thanks to the effort of the broad coalition of which both United States and Norway belong, the relentless nature of our campaign, we argued, very strongly, is starting to bear results and the military momentum on the ground is gaining strength. We still have challenges in the political realm but from a military perspective, make no mistake ISIL is under extraordinary pressure from all directions.


We applaud Norway’s recent decision to augment its 120 personnel that are already in the fight, with 60 more predominantly Special Operations Forces (SOF) forces that are going to help train Syrian Arab Sunni partners in fighting in Syria doing that in Jordan as Minister Bø said. They're also sending a medical team to northern Iraq. This is going to be especially important as we push towards Mosul and we want to be prepared for unfortunately higher casualties as we do so.


Now even as we pursue the defeat of ISIL and other violent extremist groups we must also vigorously respond to the challenge on the east – Russia. As Mr. Bø said, they’re modernizing their military capabilities, most problematically for us they're rattling their nuclear saber in ways which we hadn't heard since the Cold War, and it's quite unsettling to hear it. They’re seeking of illegally annex Crimea, destabilize of Ukraine, undermine NATO’s solidarity at every step and we're starting to see confrontation in different ways, such as unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers by Russian aircraft and surface naval vessels. I recently visited Stockholm, Sweden and met with all my Nordic Baltic counterparts and they are as concerned about this reckless behavior as we are.


Because we know that all it will take is one minor accident that both sides will immediately say was the cause of the other side, which might lead to a confrontation by accident that neither side wants.


Now, last week, President Obama, as you all know here, hosted all the Nordic leaders, including Prime Minister Solberg at the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit.  And if you haven't read the joint statement, I commend it to you.  I thought it was quite strong.  And it demonstrates the critical solidarity that is required of U.S. allies and partners.


Now, if we do this, as the United States says, one of the things I don't get out of the Pentagon very often.  Generally, I'm in the Pentagon focused on the internal operations because I'm the chief operating officer of the department.


            But whenever I do, I very much value the personal relationships because it turns out that most of my counterparts, we all kind of think the same.  We see what is happening.  We might have different tactical responses to specific things, but it's quite extraordinary to me the talent in our allies and to develop relationships with them.


            And so that's why I so much appreciate our personal relationship, because we continue to -- just through ourselves that the leadership and commitment to the alliance and to ourselves.


            Norway has demonstrated leadership in strengthening conventional deterrence on NATO's eastern and northern flanks.  While the United States and other NATO nations have focused on out of area operations, Norway really never took its eye off of the ball in the High North when it comes to Russian military activities.


            They were constantly watching.  They were constantly providing the United States with great insight on what was happening.  And it was extremely important to us and remains so. 


            Norway plays an important regional security role, as evidenced by President Obama's hosting Norway and the Nordic countries last week.  And the joint statement which I just referred to highlights Norway's contributions, along with the other countries in the area, especially through NORDEFCO, and Norway's support for NATO's enhanced opportunity framework has been very strong.


            Norway has also repeatedly emphasized the need to increase NATO's maritime domain awareness in the region, something which we also agree with.  And the information Norway provides to us and to NATO on Russian capabilities is second to none.


            I was able to fly on a Norwegian P-3 on a short mission up in the north.  And I was enormously impressed with the professionalism of the crew, the way they approached the problem.  They told me quite proudly of their capabilities and what they were able to do.  And it was a pleasure being on the plane with them.


            I also had an opportunity to visit the United States Marine Corps pre-positioning program, which Øystein talked about.  It is an unbelievable facility.  When you walk through it, you're just astounded at the care and attention that Norway places on maintaining that equipment.  It's really quite stunning.  And I want to thank Norway for sustaining this key pillar of our bilateral defense relationship.


            On behalf of the entire department, I'd also like to commend NATO for its willingness to increase its defense budget and especially in investing in critical capabilities, which is so important to both the alliance and to NATO's security.  Norway is one of the few NATO allies that has met the Wales target of spending at least 20 percent of their budget on equipment.  And this is a significant achievement. 


            We’d like Norway to continue its positive trend and reached the two percent goal of GDP, gross domestic product, as soon as it can, but we are especially impressed by its emphasis on high technology capabilities.


            Now by doing all of these things -- supporting the counter-ISIL coalition, operations in Afghanistan, investing in defense -- defense capabilities, speaking out and being a leader in the Baltic area of the High North, the Norwegian government demonstrates in important fiscal ways that it understands the importance of maintaining a strong defense and investing in new capabilities to allow NATO to stay ahead of any threat, wherever it may come from and however it might arise.


            And Norway's recent decision to buy 52 F-35s, which I'll talk about in just a second here, the country's largest ever military procurement, is again a sign of leadership in this area.


            Norway also recently hosted a multilateral Cold Response Exercise last March -- 16,000 soldiers, including 4,000 U.S. troops, and Norway plans to host NATO's Threat Juncture in 2018.  And I think you all know that the visuals of U.S. Marine tanks sliding on ice in Norway is one of the most viral -- among the most-watched YouTube clips in the history of the Department of Defense.    


            So I have to say, I just finished watching the Norwegian series  “Occupied”  on Netflix.  The only real problem with that whole series is they didn't ask Øystein to be a star.  And I want to say, contrary to that fictional future, which is portrayed in that story, the United States commitment to Norway will always last.  It is steadfast and that will never change.  The bonds between our two countries are unbreakable.  And that is not something we just say, but we try to demonstrate through our actions.  And we will continue to do so.


            As part of the F.Y. '17 budget submission Øystein talk about the European Reassurance Initiative.  Again, up until 2012, we were reducing force structure in Europe because we will need and want to have a productive partnership with Russia into the future. 


            But because of their activities, we felt it very important that we reassure our allies in the north, in the east, in central and in the south, that we would be there in case Russia does other confrontational activities.  And we will now have a heel-to-toe rotational presence of an armored brigade in Europe, which means that by the end of 2017, there will be a full U.S. division, a multi-component division with an airborne brigade, a Stryker brigade, an armored  brigade, and an additional armored brigade set of equipment, in addition to the Marine Corps set in Norway.


            So we're taking these steps just to strengthen deterrence.  We're not trying to be provocative.  We are doing it in response to Russian activities which we can all see.  Now this concept of deterrence that we have -- not really thought about is the NATO alliance for quite some time.  And we need to think about it anew as we deal with the way Russian activities are occurring.


            We have to start to exercise our strategic muscles as we haven't done.  And I’d like to just point out one of the reasons why we chose to put a rotational armored brigade is because every time that brigade deploys, they will come from their home port.


            They will put all of their equipment on trains.  They will ship the trains to a seaport.  We will load them on ships.  We will take them across the Atlantic.  We will unload them at a seaport.  And put them together, where they will operate with our European allies.


            We are exercising muscles that we haven't done since the Cold War, being able to send U.S. forces across the Atlantic in case they are needed to support our NATO allies. 


            And Russia is not just getting good at air, land and sea, but they're especially getting good at cyber, electronic warfare, and space, where the United States's reliance on technology, and I would argue NATO's, has been a great strength of ours.  But that strength is being undermined by Russian and other competitors.


            So all I'll say is there might be some time for questions.  You know, as far as the Third Offset Strategy.  We have long counted -- the United States and NATO have long counted on a technological overmatch against our enemies -- excuse me -- our adversaries, our competitors.  And to overcome the twin tyrannies of initiative on forces that are already close to Europe, and the distance that we would have to travel to help our allies. 


            So this has been a key factor of ours, and that's why we call it the Third Offset Strategy.  It is just we're trying to offset these problems that we face in military planning, to assure our allies that we will be there if and when we are needed.


            Now, a number of factors have contributed to this erosion of military capabilities over the last 10 or 15 years.  Budget pressures in all of our countries have led to declining investments, and R&D investments, and force structure. 


            Second, the locus of innovation has shifted right to the commercial industry.  And that is where most of the things that are really militarily relevant in the future are being driven.  And so that means our competitors, whoever they might be, will have access to the same technologies that we have; will be able to use them in ways that we might not anticipate; and it is going to be important that we position ourselves for this competition over time.


            So I want to echo what Øystein said.  This is something where governments and our defense industrial bases and our commercial sectors are going to have to be partners in being able to handle this very dynamic competitive environment.


            In essence, we have to try to become faster and try to be as fast as the commercial industry.  But I want to tell everyone here, when people say the Department of Defense has to be as fast as commercial industry, they have no conception -- no conception of the size and scale of the Department of Defense, its broad expanse of activities.  But more importantly, what we look for is not necessarily the technology per se.  It is the operational and organizational constructs that use technology to achieve a military advantage.


            And those are not something that the commercial industry has to deal with.  And they take time.  It takes exercises.  It takes training.  It takes changes in doctrine.  It takes exercises with your allies.  All of this is at a pace that is much slower than is mere technology development.


            So our technological offset strategy focuses on these operational and organizational constructs.  We know that artificial intelligence and autonomy is going to be central to the way we operate.  But it's not just saying, "Well, let's get autonomy in artificial intelligence as fast as we can."  It has to be in some type of an organization.  It has to be in some type of operational construct that we work together.


            So that's the premise of the Third Offset strategy.  Right now, we see artificial intelligence autonomy affecting all of our lives, and the lives of all of our citizens.  That change is happening in our society.  And just like the rifle, telegraph and railroad revolution in war, which was driven primarily by the technological commercial push of railroads and telegraphs that had an impact on the way wars were fought.  It didn't change the character of war, but it certainly had an impact on the way it was fought.  And that's what we're seeing now.  A.I. and autonomy are changing all of our lives, and it will inevitably change the way we fight. 


            So what we're looking to do is have what we call joint collaborative human machine battle networks that synchronize operations.  Now, battle networks sounds all science fiction maybe, but it's not.  There's a central grid.  There's command, control, communications, computers and intelligence grid.  And there's an effects grid. 


            Think about the British integrated air defense system in World War II.  The – sensor grid were spotters and radar, electronic warfare operatives.  They would say the German bomber streams were coming.  Then there was an underground command and control network with fighter sectors that would say here is where the attack is coming from, and with its marshal our forces, put our forces in front of that attack and try to blunt it.  And then the final effects grid were barrage balloons, radar-controlled antiaircraft guns, stick fires, hurricanes.  


            Those three grids operated together as a battle network, and that battle network operates to allow you to achieve a decisive advantage over your adversaries.  And all you're saying is when we inject artificial intelligence autonomy into these battle networks, you are going to have a step function -- step function in performance.


            And that's what we seek.  And Øystein talked about how important it is for us to -- not only our allies, but our defense industrial base and our commercial.  The F-35, that is not an “F” -- the fighter in 35 is absolutely wrong.  It is a battle network 35, a “BN” in 35. 


            And it is built around the idea of human-machine collaboration, where the airplane is a learning machine that learns about its environment and it displays it to the pilot so that the pilot can then make decisions faster and more effectively than the enemies, their adversaries. 


            One of the reasons why the F-35 took so long is it was so far ahead of its time.  It was a battle network -- a battle network platform that we simply did not have the technology to do.  And it has taken us time to work it out.  But wow, when we have it worked out, and we think we are very close to having the next software drop done, all different things, that airplane is going to be astoundingly capable, astoundingly capable. 


            Øystein talked about the naval strike missiles.  One of the things we need are network to naval cyber-hardened EW hardened autonomous weapons.  The naval strike missile is unbelievably capable.  The A.I., the artificial intelligence that is in that missile, allowing it to fight through very dense electronic warfare attacks, identify its target reliably, and take the attack home -- it's one of the best missiles, in my view, in the world.


            And the ideas in that missile are the ideas we need for our future missiles.  I'm proud to say that the Navy is going to have a total of four naval strike missiles on LCS-1 in its next deployment.  And we're testing it.  So all I can say is the ideas that are in that missile are exactly what the third offset is all about. 


            And Norway, we have another thing which we call the human machine combat team.  It's the teaming of men and women and machines to accomplish missions that in the past men and women would have to do.  And all of the research and operational thought into unmanned mind warfare systems that work with human operators is another leading edge of the third offset.


            So make no mistake about it, we're moving in this direction.  The world's going and we're going to go with it.  We need to be faster.  I know that we're not as fast as we need to be.  We'll never be as fast as people think we should be.  But we are going to work as closely with the defense industrial base and our commercial sectors as we possibly can.


            Now, I would say that we as an alliance have four key advantages as we start on the road of this third offset.  The first is our people.  We have a premise that young men and women who grow up in an i-world democracy will have an inherent advantage over young men and women who grow up in an i-world authoritarian regime.  We welcome the creative spirit.  We welcome initiative.  We welcome our people doing things when they lose communications.


            Not so much in an authoritarian regime.  Every single individual is sand in the -- ground in sand in the gears.  That could possibly screw up what the senior leader said that we would be doing.  So we think we have an advantage and we never want to lose that. 


            Second, our advantages of jointness is unbelievably advanced.  We've been working at this since 1986, when every battle networks -- all of the services have to talk together or the battle network is not as good as it needs to be.  We have an inherent advantage here, and I believe Norway has the same advantage in the same that it approaches its joint operations.


            The third thing is combined operations.  Our potential competitors don't really have a lot of allies.  The United States is blessed with a lot of allies.  Each of the allies bring different things to the table.  All of them have different ways that they're going to help the third offset.


            And we believe that this is an enormous advantage for us, and one that if we do not exploit, we'd in a big problem. 


            And finally, we believe that NATO and the United States have demonstrated time and time again to develop campaign-level system-of-system battle networks.  We do it in our man-hunting.  We do it while we search for missiles.  We do it in our air-to-air.  We do it in our surface warfare.


            We put these together.  And we think these four advantages -- our people, our jointness, our combined operations, and our ability to do system on systems -- will help us in this competition as we pursue the third offset.


            I want to again thank you for inviting me here today.  And I want to thank Øystein for asking me to come.  As I said, I probably would have said no and -- (inaudible) -- said that.  I'm very busy.  I'm not going to be able to come to every single thing.  But as I said, when Øystein calls, I listen.  And it's great to be here and I'm glad I was able to come.


            I look forward to your questions.