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Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

March 4, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

STAFF:  Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me a distinct honor today to welcome one of our nation's greatest leaders and advocates for our service members.  A man who has dedicated his life so that our military has the equipment and resources we need to fight and win in a complex world.

Please join me in a warm JBOM round of applause for the 25th Secretary of Defense Secretary Ash Carter.


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  All right.  Thanks very much General Lanza.  I should tell you, first of all, how lucky you are to have Steve Lanza commanding this place, all of you.  He and I go back a long way, and you couldn't want better. 

Second -- please sit down.  Everybody, sit down, please.  I also want to recognize Congressman Heck, Congressman Kilmer, for being here.  Thank you.  You honor us with your presence.  I very much appreciate your support here. 

Great to look out at all of you.  The first thing I want to say to you is just how incredibly proud I am of you.  To be at the helm of the finest fighting force the world has ever known is a tremendous privilege, and to be part of a country that has forces as strong and as decent and principled as you are is a wonderful thing -- not just for us, to protect our people, but to leave a better world for our children, and that's what you do. 

And I'm got to say just two things to you, and then I'll take some questions or comments from all of you, and then I want to get a chance to look each of you in the eye individually, and shake your hand. 

You are, right here, right now, at JBLM, at the pivot point of our strategic history for the United States.  And the reason for that is, first, you do it all, and second, you have it all.  Let me tell you what I mean. 

By "do it all" -- it means you have capabilities and are involved in all of the major challenges that we face as a country.  Unfortunately, there are a number of them, and we don't have the luxury of choosing among them. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, we have, first of all, the challenge of maintaining the role that the United States has played for decades and decades and decades out here, which is to provide the military flywheel -- the system of security that has allowed the Asian miracle of prosperity, which has, of course, been good for America, to occur. 

It's been in the -- atmosphere of peace and stability provided by us that Japan rose, then South Korea, then Taiwan, Southeast Asia -- today, China and India.  And that's a good thing. 

And China's rise, just to get to the point, is fine.  China's aggressive behavior is not, and we and lots of our partners out here look to us to apply a counterweight -- to check anything excessive. 

You do that here -- all of the services represented here.  We talk about a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific -- that's a recognition of the fact that this part of the world, of which this region is a part, is where half of humanity lives and half of the world's economic activity is.  So it is the single region of greatest consequence to the American future. 

By the way, while we're talking of this region, we can't forget North Korea -- always out there, on my mind every day.  You would be part of the force that would respond to a crisis on the Korean peninsula.  This would be a hub through which forces flowed if that -circumstances were to lead down that road in the future. 

Strong deterrence -- what our USFK calls "Fight Tonight" -- that's the posture we have to have to deter North Korea.  So there's two things.  Can't forget Russia.  And a number of you, even though it's a long way to Europe from here, I learned today there are even some units from here who are participating in our European Reassurance Initiative, which is aimed at making sure that we deter Russian aggression in Europe, something we haven't had to worry about for a quarter century.  But now clearly we do.

Then there is, notwithstanding the fact that we have a nuclear deal with Iran, which is a good thing because it prevents us them from getting a nuclear weapon, it doesn't solve all of our issues with Iran, and the possibility for Iranian aggression in the Gulf, Iranian malign activities in the region.

And then of course -- so now I'm up to number four -- the fifth major challenge we face right now is defeating ISIL.  We will defeat ISIL.  We have to defeat ISIL.  I'm confident that we will, but we need to get on with it.  We need to accelerate that process and put an end to that, defeat them first in Syria and Iraq, which is where this cancer began, where the parent tumor was, and to kill it there and make it clear that there is no such thing as a state based upon that ideology.  And then everywhere it has spread around the world, and at the same time protecting our own people. 

And we are accelerating that now.  We are doing it in every possible way.  I will mention two that involve capabilities that are resident right here.  They are not being used for that right now but I don't rule that out in the future.

One is, today I visited a number of Army units.  One of them, I'll just pick one, was the HIMARS battery.  I don't know if any of the guys from the HIMARS battery are here, but they are actually deploying to the Middle East right now, and actually units like that will be participating in the counter-ISIL fight.

I was also over at the cyber unit here, which has been so far involved entirely in defensive operations, and very deep effective ones, defending our DOD networks and helping our civil society to defend critical infrastructure in our country.

But our third cyber mission is offensive, and we are going offensive against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  No reason why these guys should be able to command and control over the Internet.  There's no reason why they should be sending nasty messages around.  There's no reason why they should be able to use the Internet and social media to dominate and tyrannize the people on whose territory they now sit, and we are going to knock that out.  That's a cyber mission as well.

So all of those things, those five challenges, you do it all here at JBLM.  And the other thing is, you have it all.  You are joint -- look at you.  It's one of the fantastic things about JBLM is the ability of different services literally to take a five or 10 minute ride and be with the colleagues with whom they would operate in a real contingency.  That's a big deal and a huge strength here.

You represent a terrific relationship between the military community and the larger national community.  It's particularly in that regard that I want to recognize the congressmen that are here today.  That's something that's very important to our country.  It's not something that comes as easily because we are now two generations away from World War II, when everybody fought.

It's an all-volunteer force, it's a smaller portion of the population, but it defends everyone and it represents everyone.  And by the way, draws of the very best from everyone.  And you have a terrific community here that supports JBLM.

It happens this area is also a technology hub in our country.  That's one of the reasons why I came to this region.  I was down with some companies like Microsoft and Amazon yesterday in Seattle, and the second thing after you that makes ours the finest fighting force the world has ever known is our technology, and it's important that we be the first with the most, not just now but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years from now.

That means that we have to leverage the tremendously innovative American technology economy and make sure that we are completely up- to-date and have the very best in our military.  That too is represented here by the union between this innovative general community and one of our most innovative joint military capabilities.

And finally, you have it all in the sense that you have Guard, reserve, Washington state militia and active-duty all working together.  I'll just give you just one example here.  I visited this historic cyber unit here that is made up exactly of that total force, and they are not only doing something path-breaking -- that is, working of the cyber domain, but they are doing it in a way that allows the military to have access to extremely experienced people in the field of tech.

These are people who work in leading companies but they serve their country at the same time.  That's one of the beauties of having a strong reserve component in our country.

So you have it all here.  You do it all, you have it all.  I wanted you to know, and when you talk to your family or talk to your kids or talk to your parents, and you tell them you saw secretary of defense and first of all, on behalf of our entire country he thanked you for what you do.  You are doing the noblest thing that a person can do with their life.

But also that you right here, right now are at a hinge of strategic history.  You're going to make strategic history.  We are extremely proud of you.  I'm so proud of you.  You are absolutely a wonderful capability.  God help anybody who gets in your way. 

I now look forward to taking some questions from you, or it doesn't have to be a question.  Can be a comment, an observation, something that you know that I ought to know, and then I'll get a chance to see each one of you individually.  And I think they have mics around here.  So just step up and have at it.

Q:  Sir, Master Sergeant Templin from the 728th airlift squadron.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 stripped some of the powers from commanding officers for prosecuting and then commuting sentences of the people that they commanded, but only in the respect of sexual assault.

What, if anything, was the DOD's input to Congress when they did that, and do you think the act went far enough or too far?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, a couple of things.  I am familiar with the act, and we did have conversations with Congress before and after, and really along these lines, and this is kind of my thinking.

Commanders do have substantial discretion.  I expect them to use that wisely, both for punishment and for deterrence. 

And in addition to that, I think that there's a lot more to the effort which we have to wage to combat sexual assault -- and I'll tell you why.  The reason why  it's unacceptable anywhere, but it's really unacceptable in our military community. 

And the reason is that the profession of arms is based upon honor and trust, and sexual assault is a violation of honor and a compromise of trust.  –If  you don't trust someone, how can you go to war with them?  And so it's particularly unacceptable in our midst. 

Now, punishment is an important thing.  But I just want to say there's other parts to it.  There's the victim and their welfare, their representation -- making sure we take care of them.  That's really important also. 

And of course you don't want to get to the point where you ever have a sexual assault.  So prevention is a whole other thing, before you get to the law-enforcement phase, which is what your question is about. 

And then the more we learn and one thing I'm very proud of about our institution is that it's a learning institution -- that when we  take on something like sexual assault or counterinsurgency or anything that we suddenly realize we really need to get good at, we're very good at getting on top of a problem. 

So I'm proud of us in that regard.  And we learn, and we keep learning things about sexual assault.  And I'll just name one -- I think, over the last year or so, it's dawned on all of us more, and our studies have indicated this, that there's another dimension to -- another echo of the original assault in the form of retaliation, and we're paying attention to that now. 

So there are a lot of dimensions besides the law enforcement dimension.  But as far as the law enforcement and crime-and-punishment aspect, which your question is concerned, I expect commanders -- they have wide discretion.  I think that's appropriate.  But I expect them to use it appropriately. 

Q:  (Off mic) Sir.  Sergeant Ramirez, Marine Corps Security Force Battalion.  My question is, given the nature of the mission at the (inaudible) weapons facilities across the country, is there any way that there's a way to mirror the countermeasures on Google Maps, Bing Maps -- things of that nature, like they have forward -- on the bases forward deployed, to what they have here, like at -- (inaudible) -- Bangor, over at Kings Bay, Georgia?  Because basically what they have is a virtual terrain model of the facilities. 

SEC. CARTER:  Yeah.  It’s a good question, and obviously operating our nuclear arsenal, which is foundational, by the way -- I mean, it is the bedrock of our security -- we don't talk about it all that much, you don't read about it in the newspapers that much, thank goodness, right, but it is foundational. 

So making sure it is safe, secure and reliable is critical.  The cyber unit I mentioned, by the way, has been working on the cyber protection of that force.  You're talking about the physical protection of that force, and that's a -- right?  That's a very serious business. 

And what you're saying is, in today's information environment, the information available to somebody who wanted to operate against one of our nuclear facilities is much greater than it was in the past, and can we exercise at home the same kind of operational security practices that we exercise abroad?  Do I have it right?

Q:  No, sir.  More along the lines is that basically you can go on Google Maps and view the facilities and...

SEC. CARTER:  Yes, okay.  I'm sorry, I may have said it wrong.  But I do get it. 

I don't think we're going to stop that.  I don't think we're going to stop people from wanting to have Google Maps of the communities in which we station and operate our nuclear forces.

And so I think where your question goes is that for people in your profession who are charged with physical security, we're going to have to do things differently and be more stringent.

And it's not going to be enough anymore to assume that the enemy may not know what the ingress and points are to a facility that they may not know where the firing positions are that are already planned out.

That kind of thing which was an advantage that you would have as a base owner at a time when you can keep a base opaque, I don't think we're going to be able to get that back.

So I think the honest and realistic -- I wish we could around our bases, it's a general problem for us as operational security and force projection.  But I think the reality -- there's nothing more important to me force protection and nuclear command and control. 

But the reality is we're going to have to up our game for the very reason you say, that the enemy has tools available that they didn't have before.  And you see that, by the way, in terrorism and crime and so forth.

It's a two-edged sword, this technology thing.  That's why I'm determined that we be better than the bad guys.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.  Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  Airman First Class Patrick Roy, 62nd MXG

My question, what are the greatest obstacles we face in having Pacific Pathways go into full effect?  And do you feel that's the answer to securing the Pacific Asian region? 

Well, for the second part, it's certainly part of the answer.  And General Lanza and all of I Corps were briefing me earlier today on Pacific Pathways, which I think is a tremendous innovation by the Army.

Just for everybody who may not know about Pacific Pathways and the Army, Pacific Pathways is part of the Army's reflection of the rebalance.  And what the Army has recognized is that even though the Asia-Pacific is a large maritime environment, most of the militaries there are land forces-oriented.

And, of course, any conflict would involve dominating human and physical terrain.  And so the Army has a big role to play.  And Pacific Pathways is one of the ways you do that.

I think it's incredibly creative.  It gets you all your other Army colleagues out and about in the region, which is good for you, it's good training, it's good to familiarize yourself with region you might have to operate in. 

It's terrific for our friends and partners in the region.  Remember most of the countries in that region look to the United States to be their ally and partner to help them build their own capability, from Japan all the way down to Australia, just to name old and traditional allies, and in between countries like Vietnam, which we once obviously had a war with, now eager to work with us.

And the Army is one of those ways that we're able to reach out to them.  Why is it important to have -- well, first of all, why do we have all the friends and partners in the Pacific, you might ask yourself. 

I should have mentioned this earlier.  Another reason why I'm so proud of you.  Our people, our technology, and our values are what make us the best military in the world. 

And it's not just saying, it's other people have voted for that, because we have all the friends and allies.  Well, why is that?  It's because they like us and they like what we stand for.  And they like the way we treat them and the way we conduct ourselves.

And they like you.  I always hear that.  They like working with you because you're not only competent and capable, but you're decent to work with.  That is a huge strength of United States.

And, of course, we want to have friends because we don't want to have to do everything ourselves, right?  Sometimes feels that way anyway.  You want other people to defend their own countries but also participate where there's a crisis somewhere so we have other friends. 

That's why we're trying to round up everybody to get into the ISIL fight with us, so we shouldn't have to do it alone.  We're going to have to lead it.  We're going to have to be the most powerful part of it, because we are the most powerful part of it.  But we shouldn't be the only part of it.

So you're building those.  And I don't think it competes with other things the Army is doing.  I think it compliments other things, because the more you're out there, you're out about, it goes to the Army. 

The Army -- and this is a priority that General Milley has that I'm a 100 percent behind him in, is readiness.  And it's a great way to keep up readiness.  And it's a great way to practice operating jointly.  You have it all.  I think it has got a great future.

Q:  Thank you very much, sir. 

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you. 


Q:  Afternoon, sir.  My name Specialist (inaudible).  I'm from (inaudible). 

And my question is, given that -- I, myself, wasn't enlisted in the United States Army through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program, given that most of the languages and the cultural expertise are from that area of the Asia-Pacific region, and since we have alignment of our forces in the Asia-Pacific region as well, is there some sort of expansion or some sort of permanency to that program, sir? 

SEC. CARTER:  I can't speak to expansion, I would have to take a look at the numbers there and the trends.  I certainly think there's a future for it.  It's there for a reason.  And it is yet another capability that we bring to bear when we do things like Pacific Pathways. 

So I'm grateful to you for being part of it.  And I think that's an enormous contribution that you make.  But I don't see how we operate without it. 

Q:  Thank you, sir. 

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you. 

Is that it?  Okay, listen, once again, you know, get on the phone tonight or go home, if you're going home, and tell your loved ones, first of all, how proud your country is if you, because you're doing noblest thing you could possibly be doing with your life.

And second, that you're absolutely at the center of the strategic action today.  Now come on up and let me have a chance to look at you each of you in the eye and say exactly that.