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Media Availability with Secretary Mattis at DIUx

Press Operations

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
Aug. 10, 2017
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Hello, everybody.

Q:  Hello.

SEC. MATTIS:  Good to see you.  I didn't expect all of you to come out here.

What can I answer for you?  I'd rather take your questions, see what's on your mind.

Q:  Yes.

SEC. MATTIS:  Go ahead young lady.

Q:  I'm with ABC News.

We want to find out from you, how do you gauge the threat from North Korea?  What are your thoughts on that?  Is it very serious, or is it still a battle of tweeting?

SEC. MATTIS:  A battle of?

Q:  Tweets?

SEC. MATTIS:  I'm sorry.

Q:  A battle of tweets.

SEC. MATTIS:  The -- I think the best way to show how it is widely gauged is look at last weekend when the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to characterize this as a threat, a North Korean threat, to the world's community.  How often do you see France and China, Russia, the United States, and I can go on -- how often do you see them voting unanimously on any issue, and you saw that last weekend.

So the diplomats and the intelligence community I think have characterized it quite accurately, and you see the diplomatically led effort to get this under control gaining traction because of that answer.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, you gave what many perceived to be a more measured response than the president.  Today, he said his fire and fury comment perhaps did not go far enough.  What do you think of the president's comments?

And as a second question, can you talk about the human toll that might -- (inaudible) -- of a nuclear confrontation?

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, what I would say here, ladies and gentlemen, my portfolio, my mission, my responsibility, is to have military options should they be needed.

However, right now, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, you can see the American effort is diplomatically led.  It has diplomatic traction.  It is gaining diplomatic results.  And I want to stay right there right now.

The tragedy of war is well enough known; it doesn't need another characterization, beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  (Inaudible).  This organization was started by your predecessor, Ash Carter, and it was questionable whether it would survive.  You come out here, you seem to enthusiastically endorse it, but when you get back to the E-Ring, what steps will you be taking in the Pentagon to make sure this is not swallowed by a byzantine bureaucracy that you deal with all the time?

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes, I came out here to look at DIUx, because having lived for three years on Sand Hill Road after I got off active duty I was keenly aware of the energy, the intellectual rigor, the unregimented, but in many ways very disciplined problem solving that was going in to harnessing new technology.

They -- there is no doubt in my mind that DIUx will not only continue to exist, it will actually -- it will grow in its influence and its impact on the Department of Defense.  The managing director of DIUx is Raj, and he was in Washington yesterday meeting with my deputy secretary of defense.

And one of the ways you make certain that you don't have bad processes eat up good peoples' ideas is you make certain that you remove the bad processes and organize for success.

And Raj will be talking directly to my deputy secretary, who I've got other contacts in the -- very high in my Pentagon staff who will be working directly on a routine basis, and it will have the -- will also have direct access to me.

Q:  Sir, a poll coming out today from our station, KPIX, is saying that a majority of people, at least here in the Bay Area, have doubts that the Trump administration can adequately handle the North Korea crisis.  What can you say to reassure people here and around the country about that?

SEC. MATTIS:  I think the most important this is to recognize if you're going to an objective down the track, and you want to take your vehicle, your train down the track, you need two rails, and we have two rails that are mutually supporting.  

Right now we keep the diplomatic track out in front, and that is aligning a lot of allies, bringing on board people who often don't agree on all issues.  You see that routinely in various arguments.

But again, what you saw last weekend, led by Ambassador Haley and her very effective U.S. United Nations team was a consensus, a unanimous opinion that this is a threat to world peace, to global order, and it's aligning the United Nations in very serious sanctions.

And I would just tell you that that didn't just happen by accident.  That shows where the Trump administration goes in terms of the prioritizing of the threat, but also on how to deal with it in a diplomatically effective manner.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, what is our readiness?  And what steps are you going to seek permission to take against North Korea if they do a hostile act against our country or any other country?

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes, I understand the question.  It's very valid, but I don't tell the enemy in advance what I'm going to do.  Our readiness, we are ready.

STAFF:  Sir, we have time for one more question.

Q:  (Inaudible) -- about the Chinese government, about their strategic plan for artificial intelligence, and military use is a big part of that.  DIUx is investing in a lot of A.I. companies, but it's small.  Does America have an A.I. plan for how to use this in defense, as other nations are (building up ?)?

SEC. MATTIS:  The short answer is yes.  It's one that's got to be better integrated, I believe, by the Department of Defense, because I see many of the greatest advances out here on the West Coast in private industry.

Earlier today I was in Seattle, talking with people and companies that you would all recognize.  

I'm down here today.  You know why I'm here.  

And the bottom line is we will get better at integrating the advances in A.I. that are being taken here in the Valley into the -- in the U.S. military.

I'll take one last question.

No, you've already had one.

Q:  How about -- (inaudible).

SEC. MATTIS:  There we go.

Q:  How does what's happening here at the unit in the Silicon Valley companies enhance U.S. defenses, especially traditional?

SEC. MATTIS:  You know, ladies and gentlemen, we've got a big experiment we run here.  It's called America, and that's all it is, is an experiment; see if it can survive or not.  

And I would just tell you that the -- it has always been not the military; it's the U.S. military.  It belongs to you, it's accountable to you, but it's part of you, too.  And what we have to do is bring in all of the people who can solve our problems, and at times that's going to be found inside the government.  Most often -- Americans have never accepted that all problems should be solved by their government.  We've always thought, we roll up our sleeve in our local communities and we work to help people who are less fortunate.  We find ways to put together public-private ventures, very often, to solve problems.  

And certainly the U.S. military being made up of 100 percent volunteers, young patriots, men and women who've looked past the hot political rhetoric.  They bring us skills and they bring us a diversity of background that opens us to the kind of thinking here.

So when I send these folks out there, the military folks out here, they're already attuned to take advantage and harvest from this, and so we're going to use this teamwork here in order to make our military more lethal and more capable of defending our experiment that we call the United States of America.

Thanks very much, ladies and gentleman.  Appreciate you being here.  I've got to run off here.

But it's good to be back on the West Coast.  You guys really do think differently, OK.  Thanks a lot.