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Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event at Fort Huachuca, Arizona

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
May 31, 2016
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Thank you General Morrison for the visit.  I really appreciate it.  I wanted to come here for quite a while, see Fort Huachuca, got to do it today.  More on that in one moment.

I got a few other people to thank here, and I don't know if they're out there or not.  But the mayor, thank you, sir.  Thank you for being here.

And I don't know whether Congresswoman McSally made it or not.  Hey, Martha.  Good to see you.  Good to see you.

And let's see, somebody I don't know, but the supervisor, Mr.  Potucek, is he here also?  No?

Anyway, this is important because this is an isolated base, but it's not isolated in our world, it's not isolated in our country.  We count upon the support of the people more generally for what we do.  We get that through our public officials.  We're grateful for it. 

I had the opportunity yesterday, I was at Arlington, of course, it would be Memorial Day, and you saw all the wonderful people out there who were celebrating our service members of the past and there's a connection to those that are serving today because when our folks, including you, and I'm talking about uniformed and civilians, see that level of commitment on the part of the population, that shows how much they value what you do.

And because what you do is the noblest thing a person can do with their life, which is providing security for their fellow citizens because nothing else in life, all the other precious things in life of family and kids and a professional life and being what you want and thinking what you want and doing what you want, none of that is possible if you don't have security, and what we provide is security.

So it's a wonderful thing to wake up in the morning and feel part of.  I am immensely proud to be the leader of and part of the finest fighting force the world has ever known, and that's you.

I hear it everywhere I go, not just around the country but around the world.  And just to walk around the world a little bit, it's not like we don't have enough to do in today's world and just to give you the tick list here, I'll be heading off to the Asian Pacific tomorrow, a place that's not in the headlines and that's a very good thing because it's a very important place.  Probably the single region of the greatest consequence for the American future overall simply because half of humanity and half of the economic activity of the globe is there.

But like anything else, peace isn't a birthright.  We play a role out there.  There are still animosities and tension out there, and the American role is pivotal there, and that's why the rebalance is so important.  You guys are a part of that.

I go to Europe, where for 25 years we didn't have to worry about aggression in Europe by Russia.  Now we do.  It's unfortunate, but I don't see any way around it and I don't see particularly any end to it, at least in the near term. 

So we are where we are.  We have to do what we have to do.  Y'all are involved in that as well.

Our good friends in North Korea, still out there after all these years.  Isn't there a song to that effect?  And they did their Musudan launch, didn't work, yesterday.  But they're there.  We stand tall, strong, alert every single day and we have year after year after year after year. 

Iran, aggression, malign activity potential in the Persian Gulf against many of our friends and allies there.  Need to stay strong there.

And then, of course, we have to defeat ISIL and we're -- of course we're going to.  We need to do that in Iraq and Syria where it began and we need to destroy it there and show that there can't be a state based upon an ideology like that.  There isn't going to be a state based on ideology of that sort.

And then everywhere around the world it's spread, including protecting here at the homeland -- here in the homeland.  We can do all that, but we got to do all that and at the same time, we have to be thinking about the future also because we're pretty good at not knowing exactly what comes next.  We almost never do.  And so we got to be ready for what comes after that.

So you have your hands full, and whether it's electronic warfare or intel or cyber, and ISR -- those are central disciplines to the future of the world and therefore both for the Army to have and for us to have as a joint force, an installation like this, where we can kind of do it all, and we do training, we do pre-deployment training, we do all kinds of developmental work and developmentive operational approaches to new problems.

We do gun-integrated training, we have this fantastic ability to do emission and to control emissions in this great bowl here.  So it isn't -- and the tremendous training pipeline, both Army and joint and all the intelligence disciplines.

So this is a huge treasure for us at the Department of Defense.  It's the fulcrum of everything that is happening to us and with us as we move from a exclusive focus on COIN to a more full spectrum outlook.  Today in the department everything that's -- that we're doing that -- we're moving strategically, technologically, you are at the center of it.

And of course, our people are the reason that our military is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  Yeah, we got -- yeah, we're big, yeah, we're -- we've got -- we have a lot of good technology and so forth, but it's the people.

And I'll just close on that note because that's something that makes me really proud as I go around the world is -- in addition to having the finest fighting force the world has ever known, if you haven't noticed, we have all the friends and allies, too.  And our antagonists or potential antagonists or competitors don't.  And that is, first of all, because of what we stand for and they like that and they -- those are things that human beings find attractive and they like what America stands for.

And secondly it's because they like working with you.  They like the way you conduct yourselves.  They like the respect and dignity with which you treat other people and I hear that everywhere around the world.  They just like working with you.  So I am immensely, immensely proud of you and I hope your families are proud of you.  If they're not, tell that if they were here I would tell them to be proud of you and they certainly should be.  But the country is proud of you and I'm immensely proud of you.  

Now I've got some time here to take -- these -- to hear from you.  These can be questions or something that you think I ought to know that I might not know.  Either one.  And I guess we have two stick mics and Peter -- Peter -- where's Peter?  He'll be our impresario.  Peter, how do you want to do this?

Question, comment, anything.  Come on up.  Any subject, anything's fair.

Q:  So first of all, sir.  Good afternoon.  I'm from Electronic Proving Ground.  My question is on the budget.  So -- every year we get to a point where we go, hey, we've got this pot of money and we need to spend it because if we don't spend it, we're not going to get it next year.

So my question to you, sir, is -- is there a way that you can look into some programs or you can have your leadership look into some programs that -- that these units that don't need that get rewarded or these individuals that don't need that money that run programs get rewarded for turning that money back in and getting it reallocated to other areas that we need -- that we need because we have -- the shrinking -- with the shrinking budget, it will be a lot better than just going out and spending stuff that you don't need.  So that's my question.

SEC. CARTER:  Yeah.  It's a great idea.  And this is the binge or bust at the end of the fiscal year phenomenon, which is kind of a scourge, and you all know it, and it's kind of human nature that if you got money burning a hole in your pocket, and either it's going to have to go back to the treasury people spend it on whatever they spend it on at the end of the year.

Whereas, down the hall there may be somebody who is dying at the end of the fiscal year and they were unable to complete their task and isn't there some ability to have that kind of flexibility.  I -- some of you may know -- was the acquisition executive and -- years ago and that was something that I worked on at that time.

I actually, to be quite honest with you, I don't know what the status is of what we were trying to do then, which was to provide that kind of flexibility -- the only thing I'll say is this.  And this isn't a criticism of the Congress and -- because they're wonderful partners in every way and they see -- but you know, what the constitution says that we get to ask for the money and they spend the money and believe me, they don't -- they read -- they must read it every day -- I mean, Congresswoman, maybe they read it and reread it every day.  But we're never in any doubt about whose money it is.

And they do things on an annual basis and they don't like us to change our minds.  They thing we're screwing around sometimes.  So it's a hard thing to get the authority from Congress and end of year is one kind of authority.  I'll give you another kind of authority, and this really is a problem for us all.  And again, I'm not blaming it on anybody.  I think we both need to work together, us and the Congress, to get -- and that is reprogrammings in the middle of year.  That's way too hard.

And it's -- that's a bad practice in peacetime, it kills you in wartime because we -- you know -- the reality is I can't be sure of every nickel we're going to need or spend or how we're going to spend it next year.  So we ask for a budget, particularly in OCO, which we think is right, and you know, we work really hard to make it right, but the reality is that, you know, in today's world a year is a hell of a long time.  

It really -- and so if we're going to be competitive in today's world, we have to be more agile than that.  And the only way to do that is to get Congress to agree and accept and have a process, and that means we have to be honest, we have to be straightforward, we can't game the system, and then we just have to ask them, and I'm all the time in front of the committee saying, could you please.

And there's more I could say about the budget -- obviously, that's a heartache -- or a headache for us.  We could go into seven -- the seventh straight year of turmoil now in the budget.  I hope that doesn't happen, but it's really tough to manage in that circumstance.

But I kind of owe you an answer on that.  I mean, it's a long way of saying I don't know exactly where I left that when I was undersecretary and I'm going -- I'll tune back in.  Thanks.  I'm talking about the end of year part. 

Q:  Sir, Chief Foreign Officer Five Kevin Boughton from the Warrant Officer Training Branch.  I’m with the 111th MI brigade.  And my question is more on personnel issues, specifically to Warrant Officers across DOD.

You recently discussed the need to change Goldwater-Nichols, the 1986 act. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but you know, we here in the Army -- and Army MI specifically, through our lessons learned over the last 15 years have found that it's a critical requirement to train our MI Warrant Officers on operating in a joint environment. Also not sure if you're aware of this, but warrant officers aren't part of the joint officer management system, and I was wondering, in your opinion, if you would consider changing as you changed Goldwater-Nichols.

SEC. CARTER:  It is, it is.  And I'll say something first about Goldwater-Nichols in general and then go to that.  Or really we can do it the other way around, because warrant officers -- this is an enormous strength of our military.  We had a lot of our rules, including for jointness, which was a huge advance -- let's make no bones about it, Goldwater-Nichols is a great thing.  It can use a little burnishing 30 years afterwards, but good thing.  

But it was, I think at a time when the country didn't appreciate the role of the warrant officer to the extent we do now, particularly as a result of the last 15 years of war.  So it is very much on my mind as something that we need to address.  And there are lots of other things as well, about the way joint experience has accumulated, how it's scored -- it's a little too rigid for today's world.  

It was a huge advance -- I'm old enough to remember before this, believe it or not.  It made your head hurt.  You could just see things that weren't being done right because they weren't being done joint.  And now it is and that's a great thing.  I do -- again, this is an area where we need to work with Congress and get the cooperation from them.  They have their own ideas, good ideas as well, we're working towards some common solutions here.  Thirty years is a period of time for even some of the successful Goldwater-Nichols to get updated.

And this is exactly one area.  And by the way we're looking at a whole lot of talent-management related things, and the reason is that talent is the key to our military.  But the other thing is if you look around the country, people are learning how to manage people, in some better ways, in all kinds of ways.  Training, and on-the-job training, personal development, treatment of people in the workplace and therefore the quality of their contribution, moving people around and picking people and banding people -- all kinds of stuff.  People are just getting better at it, so the day of the old HR department in a company is gone and we've got to keep up ourselves.

Now we can't use everything the commercial world uses because we're not a business.  We're in the profession of arms.  That doesn't mean we can't learn things from the outside.  We need to do that in general.

Q:  Seeing that the Middle East continues to erupt on a daily basis with insurgent forces seeking power, given weak or non-existent government structures, the need for cultural advisers, interpreters and translators is extremely important.  Senior military leaders, and that includes yourself, and we have a picture of you with zero nine lima U.S. Army interpreter, use these interpreter-translators during high-level military engagements with foreign nationals.

As the military force shrinks, and this native speaking population becomes smaller, what are your thoughts on ensuring this cultural resource is filled with vetted, clearance-holding interpreter and translators?

SEC. CARTER:  Very good question.  An important one, and two things I'd say about that.

The first is, you say as the force shrinks, and yes we are reducing -- let's just take the Army now, Army end strength.  For the very reason that we increased it for the COIN fight, because we have large rotational formations to support.  Without that, we think the money is better spent on modernization and readiness than that extra increment of force structure.

That said, the wrong way to reduce force structure is the way you're suggesting might be done in this particular case, which is reducing where it's easy, rather than reducing where it makes sense to reduce, because reducing is hard, right?

And this may be an area, and I -- let me enlarge from interpreter, specifically.   Let me talk about the whole question of human terrain, because that's a -- dominating human terrain is one of the Army's future missions.   And you can't dominate human terrain unless you know human terrain.

And that means we need people in general -- it's not just language skills, it's other kinds of skills that are, by their nature, regionally aligned and require some real depth and time to acquire, so they can't kind of be bought by the yard.

In order to have access to that and have it in good people, you have to reward it -- not only keep it, but you have to reward it.   And that gets to something else that I'm looking at when I'm -- in the personnel system for people of all ranks.  

And that is how we value in-career -- I'll call it in-career training.   Is it regarded as a diversion?  Is having that kind of in-depth knowledge regarded as a side show?  Or is it regarded as a central part of force.   And I think we have to regard self-improvement in a force whose excellence depends upon people as a career long thing, if we're going to have people in for a long time.   We're going to help them get better, better and better, because the world will change.

And if we're going to dominate human terrain, we need people who understand human terrain, and they have to be central to the force and not second, you know, class citizens of the force.

So, that's a managerial challenge in the talent -- in general talent -- talent management, and it's very uppermost in my -- mind, and the mind of all of our senior leaders as well because we know it's a competitive world.

I mean, look at these guys.   We don't like them, but they're competitive.   And if we're going to stay better than them, we've got to keep -- keep at it in all of these areas.   So, you can't relax and just say, well, we don't think this is good enough, and I can remain the way I am and don't have to improve myself.

We all have to improve ourselves in today's world all the time.   And it's actually -- it's a nicer way to live, if you're constantly growing, getting better, mastering new things.


Q:  Sir, Sgt First Class Reed. I’m enlisted.

Given President Putin's response to the bolstering of NATO forces along the eastern border of the EU, how do you see the U.S.' role playing out in the upcoming years?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I think -- I think we and our NATO allies are committed to stand strong for the long run.

And I don't see any alternative to that right now.   That's going to require some real ingenuity on our part, because the defense we mount in Europe can't be the fold the gap 30 years later.   Just -- that's not the point anymore.  

It's going to have to be a different thing.   It has to take hybrid warfare, little green men and other aspects of modern warfare into account if it's to be an effective deterrent.   And an effective deterrent means, you try anything, you're going to be sorry.

And so, it's -- you know, how do you make people sorry and sorry fast for trying?  We have, on our side, a very strong alliance.   It's a unified alliance.   But it hasn't done this or had to do this for 25 years.

So, we're, you know, building the force and the operational approaches, and the alliance approaches to do that.   I don't have any doubt about the direction we're going.

You know, I'd like to think, but I don't have any expectation -- I mean, that -- this is not, in my judgment, for whatever it's worth, in the interest of the Russian people in the long run.   I mean, I don't think confrontation and isolation are good for the  -- you know, you can say that all you want, but that doesn't seem to be their leadership's view.

And although they don't get news in any kind of open way, and in the news environment in which they live, that seems to be accepted.   But -- so it is what it is, from our point of view, and we're just going to have to stand strong.   I don't have any doubt about our ability to do it.   

And we're going to put the resources behind it.   We've put four times the money this year into the European Reassurance Initiative.   And everything you're doing -- let me just take those of you in the Army, at -- for full spectrum is, you know, in part necessitated by the need to have a strong defense in Europe -- which, again, sadly, quarter century, we didn't have to do it.   But now we do.

Well, listen.   Thank you all once again for what you do.   Tremendously proud of you.   Really good to have a little time to be with you today.   And again, I've wanted to come here for a while, and it's terrific to be able to stop over here on my way actually to Singapore, is where I'm off to next where you all are active out in that area as well.

So, keep up the good work.   We're counting on you.