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Media Availability with Secretary Carter at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida



            First of all, let me thank the community around both Eglin and Hurlburt here.  This is a very hospitable community to our military.  We don't take that for granted.  We're very grateful.  We get great support from the community. 


            Both Eglin and Hurlburt are -- fulfill critical aspects of our national security.  We need them now.  We're going to need long into the future, as far into the future as I can see. 


            Let me take each of the stops today and say something about the significance of them for our security. 


            First at Hurlburt Field, there are a number of capabilities there but very specifically today we were looking at a number of the special operations forces assault capabilities.  This is a kind of capability that we use nearly every day somewhere in the world.  And that is my most important responsibility as secretary of defense, is to approve those operations.  And obviously I do that with the greatest care because there's risk associated with them. 


            But we do them with professionalism and skill unrivalled anywhere else in the world.  And it's particularly relevant to the counter-ISIL campaign that we're conducting today. 


            We are executing the campaign plan that we devised about a year ago.  I'm encouraged because we're following that plan on schedule.  You see that in all of the cities in Iraq and Syria that have already been seized from ISIL.  And you see it in the ongoing envelopments of both Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqah in Syria.


            Those have long been objectives in our plan.  They're objectives that we're pursuing right now with motivated, capable local partners so that we have a victory, and we will have a victory, that sticks.


            And then in addition to destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria, we're also pursuing and destroying them everywhere else in the world, Afghanistan, Libya, where they appear and protecting our own people back here at home. 


            All of that we will do.  And I'm confident of the outcome of that.  We're obviously trying to accomplish that as quickly as possible.  And the forces here that I was visiting with today are an essential part of that. 


            I should say, by the way, that it's coming up on Thanksgiving time, and that's another reason to talk with our forces and spend some time with them.  And one of things I told them is that I know in the case of that particular force element, we're working them very hard. 


            Their op tempo is extremely hard.  And that is necessary, but it's also difficult for them and their families.  And so as we're coming up on a family time which is Thanksgiving, I wanted them particularly to know that we were thinking of them and their families at this holiday time. 


            Here at Eglin, they are pursuing one of the critical axes of our technology investments that are so important as we reorient the strategic direction of the Department of Defense from one that was very heavily focused on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, which was necessary and we intend to retain those skills and use them as needed, but back to a full-spectrum orientation where we also have capability against high-end opponents. 


            And we make sure that we that are one step in technology ahead of all opponents.  And that's important not only in the platforms that you see here like the new F-35, but very importantly here at Eglin in munitions. 


            And that is what the specialty of this installation is, to make sure that we not only have the best weapons platforms, but that they are the most lethal, that they are the most precise, they can operate from the longest ranges against all kinds of targets. 


            And that is the mission of one of the groups here at Eglin Air Force Base.  And because that is one of the themes of our investments in both our 2017 budget and the 2018 budget.  It was important to see the progress that those programs are making.  And they're doing very well.  But they're absolutely necessary, necessary that we get the funding for them. 


            So, once again, thanks to the local community.  Above all, thanks to our folks that are here doing such essential work, both at Hurlburt and at Eglin. 


            And with that, I've got time for a couple of questions and then we'll go. 


            STAFF: (off mic)


            Q:  Yes, Mr. Secretary, we learned today that Congress will not pass (inaudible) any time soon, they will extend C.R. through the end of March.  Your reaction to that on the Defense Department's budget. 


            And can you say whether you're request any anomolies that kind of get around those effects?


            SEC. CARTER:  It's not an efficient way to run the Department of Defense to go without an appropriations budget.  This is the eighth consecutive year in which the Department of Defense has not had an appropriations bill at the end of the fiscal year. 


            That is, first of all, inefficient.  And secondly -- inefficient in terms of the use of the taxpayer dollar.  It's unfair to our troops.  They deserve budget stability and the knowledge that the Congress is supporting them with the funding that they need.


            It means that we can't begin some things that are essential, new things, because we are the most innovative military in the world.  And that means doing new things.  And we can't do new things, it creates uncertainty for all of our industry partners, defense industry partners. 


            So there's nothing good to say about the absence of a budget.  And the troops deserve better. 


We will manage as best we can under those circumstances, and try to do the best thing we can by the troops and by our mission under those circumstances, that they're not ideal, and will have to consider whether we ask for some -- you used the term anomalies, essentially some exceptions to be made by the Congress. 


            But for the same reason that they're not passing a budget, I'm not optimistic that they’ll consider exceptions to a non-budget either.  But we will certainly consider that.  And we will make those decisions in the days and weeks ahead. 


            STAFF:  (OFF-MIC)


            Q:  This is obviously a very heavy military area (inaudible).  Is there anything you can say to them during the time of uncertainty (inaudible) that there are a lot of questions about that (inaudible)?


            SEC. CARTER:  Well, first of all, I want to congratulate all of our military members.  It has been extremely important to me that not only I, but all of our -- all the members of the Department of Defense have stood apart from politics during this long campaign season. 


            And that's what our institution stands for.  We have been with our country for all of the 240 years of its history protecting our people, making a better future for each generation.  And we will continue to do that. 


            And so the professionalism, the skill of our military members of which they and their families should be very proud, is something that we've had for a very long time.  But one of the things we do is stand apart from the political process.  And we will continue to do that. 


            Q:  (off mic)?


            STAFF:  I think, one more local question, then…




            Q:  Yes.  Sir, if you could give one recommendation to President-elect Trump if he was…


            SEC. CARTER:  I'm not going to -- right, for the reason I just said, for the reason I just said, I'm not going to do that. 


            Q:  (inaudible) will continue to be funded at…


            SEC. CARTER: Yes, the F-35 program is an important one.  And it's being used by three of our four services, a number of our international partners around the world.  It is technologically and strategically advanced, and also is a way that we successfully improve our defense exports, which is good for the department and good for the country. 


            STAFF:  Thanks, everybody, appreciate it.


            SEC. CARTER:  Thanks, everybody.  Thank you.  Thanks for coming.