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Media Availability with Secretary Carter in Twentynine Palms, California

SEC. CARTER:  Let me thank you all again for coming here.  I've been visiting Twentynine Palms today, which is always impressive.  It's particularly impressive at this particular time in our strategic history because it is the place where the Marine Corps is training for full spectrum combat.  That is covering the entire range of challenges that our world poses to American security in this era.  And the training they're getting here is one of the reasons why we can be confident of meeting those challenges.  We're doing that precisely today with respect to ISIL, but there are other challenges as well.


            And then the other thing is it's an uncertain future, and here the Marine Corps is innovating, preparing for an uncertain future, and innovating with new tactics and technology, and procedures, and that's important, because it's important always to remain a step ahead all of our potential enemies, and the Marine Corps is doing that, and one of the reasons they're doing it, is that they have Twentynine Palms in which they can conduct full-spectrum training and experiment with new techniques of warfare, and because I'm here at Twentynine Palms I want to thank the local community.  The community that surrounds Twentynine Palms is extremely supportive of our Marines here.  We're grateful for that, and we are good citizens of the area.  But by far and away, our appreciation goes to the surrounding communities for being so supportive of the Marine Corps installation here at Twentynine Palms.


            With that, I'll take your questions.


            STAFF:  (Inaudible)


            Q: Yes, Sir.  (inaudible) from --


            I just wanted to ask, with the experimental (inaudible) the Marine Corp has set up, what are your thoughts on that, and do you see it as a model that could be moved even beyond the military?  (Inaudible) forward to the rest of the military services?


            SEC. CARTER:  Yes, it's extremely important that we be -- really continue to be the most innovative military in the world.  We have been that for many decades, and that's one reason why we always prevail, and we're always one step ahead of our enemies.  And when people think about innovation, they think -- sometimes they think about technology which is an important form of innovation.


            But we're also innovating in lots of other ways.  We're innovating -- and you see that here at Twentynine Palms in our operational approaches to our various challenges, so that our -- we are using our forces in the ways that are the most ingenious and inventive to achieve our objectives.  One of the ways the Marine Corps does that is by innovating here at Twentynine Palms. 


            Our other military branches do the same thing.  It's an extremely important thing to do, and continuing to be the most innovating military in the world, being agile, being flexible, being open to new ideas, is one of the secrets of American excellence over many decades, and you see it continuing here for decades to come at Twentynine Palms.


            STAFF:  (inaudible)


            Q:  (inaudible) at


            With some of this innovation that you see with the (inaudible), as we witnessed today, is there any -- is it suggested that we might deploy them sooner to urban warfare environments, such as you had mentioned Russia and this battalion going to Norway?  I mean, is there any type of experimentation that would want to deploy sooner in the two areas that are near the Russian aggression?


            SEC. CARTER:  Well, the particular unit that was exercising here today happens to be scheduled to be deployed in the Asia-Pacific theater, and the Marine Corps, like our military at large, is present in every continent of the world, where conflict could occur, and protecting us against the great range of contingencies that we have to try to prevent by standing strong.


            You mentioned both Russia and Norway, and one of the places that we are being vigilant about deterrence in is Europe today, and standing strong against the possibility of Russian aggression in Europe.  That's one of the challenges, along with Iran, the Asia-Pacific, North Korea, the destruction of ISIL.  These are all missions that we are pursuing currently.


            And we are doing more in Europe.  We have been for every successive year, and we're requesting funds to do more again this year in our budget, which we don't have a budget that's been approved yet by Congress.  But I hope since they have come back to Washington that they will take up our budget and pass it.


            STAFF:  Joe?


            Q:  Do you expect to continue on as the secretary of defense?  And if not, do you have a piece of advice for somebody who would...




            SEC. CARTER:  I'm completely focused on two things right now.  The first is, continuing to make sure that we're meeting all of our challenges today, which includes the destruction of ISIL in Iraq and Syria, standing strong against the potential of aggression everywhere else around the world, and continuing to build the most innovative and powerful military in the world.  That's my focus. 


            I have another focus now since we have a new president-elect, and that is helping the president-elect and his team undergo an orderly transition, and I'm responsible for the Defense Department to oversee that transition.  We've done that before.  We're committed to doing that with the excellence with which our department does everything else, and to help President-elect Trump hit the ground running as our commander-in-chief in the best way we possibly can.  Those are the things I'm focused on.


            STAFF:  We've got time for one more.  Kurt.


            Q:  Yes...


            STAFF:  Where you from?


            Q:  The Desert Trail.


            In the last past year at (inaudible) training, we've had three incidents involving the Hornet aircraft crashing basically (inaudible).  There was at least one fatality.  What is the Department of Defense doing in response to this?


            SEC. CARTER:  I'm going to give a general answer to the question.


            Bill, if you want to answer though, those specific incidents.


            But I think the most important point I can make is that aviation safety and aviation readiness are top priorities for me and for the commandant and for the Marine Corps, and every incident is one that we regret.  We go back.  We investigate.  We try to understand the causes, and we try to make sure it doesn't happen again.


            You know, that said, this business is inherently risky, and we try to reduce that risk where we can, but there is that risk.  More generally, the Marine Corps operates a large number of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.  Some of them are ones that need to be replaced and re-capitalized now, so one of our priorities in our budget is both to make sure that we fund the flight hours to ensure that our pilots efficiency in the Marine aircraft of today, but just as importantly that we get the funding to modernize that fleet.  And buy the new fixed-wing aircraft, like the F-35, but also the new H-1's and other rotary craft that we're procuring for the Air Force.


            And, Bill, I don't know if you want to add anything to that specific incident?


            STAFF:  And your Marine aircraft just arrived, sir.


            SEC. CARTER:  Yes, by coincidence there's a wonderful Marine Corps rotary craft landing right now.


            Listen, thank again very much, and particularly to the local community here that's so supportive of Twentynine Palms.  Thanks.


            STAFF:  Thanks, everybody.