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Media Availability by Secretary Carter in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

March 4, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Hi.  Hear me?  Well, listen -- I want to thank General Daugherty and the entire team here for what they're doing. 

And I'm here in the Seattle area because it's one of the technology hubs for our country -- I was in Silicon Valley earlier this week, I was in Boston about a month ago as a reminder that one of the things that makes the American military the finest fighting force the world was ever known is our technology. 

And it's critical that, to have an excellent military, we have a strong relationship between the Department of Defense and the innovative sector of America.  That's something we've had for decades and decades, going back to World War II, and even before that, and it's essential that we build and rebuild bridges of that kind.  And I've been stressing that. 

And behind me are some of the members of the force here that exemplify that in so many ways.  First of all, they work in a field where technology is advancing very quickly, and is very critical.  And we have three missions in cyber in the Department of Defense, as I've emphasized before. 

The first and foremost, the critical one, is to defend our own networks, and -- because there's no point in us having all those planes and ships and tanks and soldiers if they can't speak to one another, if they can't network, if they don't have the information that allows them to operate.  And maintaining the security of those networks is job one.

And a few minutes ago, I was briefed by a couple of teams here that have been working on precisely that question -- namely, making sure that we had cybersecurity in two critical parts of our arsenal -- namely, our nuclear missile fleet and our nuclear bomber fleet. 

The nuclear forces are the foundation -- they're not in the news much, thank goodness.  But they're foundational to our security.  And so having a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal is critical, and it's critical that it work in the way that it's supposed to, and they made sure that that was the case for two of those critical legs of the triad.

The second thing that we have as a mission is to help the country defend the economy and critical infrastructure, more broadly.  And they, here in Washington State, have been helping the governor and other state officials to make sure that the critical infrastructure of Washington state is also secure to any kind of cyber attack. 

They're not involved at this moment, but I don't rule it out in the future -- but units like this can also participate in offensive cyber operations of the kind that I have stressed we are conducting, and actually accelerating, in Iraq and Syria, to secure the prompt defeat of ISIL, which we need to do and will do, and we're looking for ways to accelerate that, and cyber's one of them. 

The other thing they exemplify, besides that new domain of technology, is the approach that they represent as people.  This is an operation that is heavily dependent upon guard, reserve and Washington militia presence. 

And what that means is that many -- not all, but many -- members of these teams have other jobs than helping defend this country, and in those other jobs, with all the incredible companies around this area that innovate in the cyber field, they bring to the mission of national security that tremendous talent from outside that we otherwise would have to try to recruit and retain within the full-time, active component, which would be very difficult. 

So they give our country and our fighting forces access to amazing talent and, of course, amazing dedication and amazing patriotism and amazing service on their part.  And that's why the reserve component -- which you see everywhere here, not just in cyber, but everywhere at JBLM -- is so important. 

The last thing I'll say, since some of the media are here from this particular area, is this place is pivotal in so many ways.  It is because it's pathbreaking in an area that I just described. 

This building where we're sitting, and the mission represented by these guys standing with me, is famous throughout the country because of what it stands for. 

JBLM is, geographically, critically positioned on the way to so many places where our future lies as a country, and therefore where we need to protect ourselves and provide for the security that allows commerce to prosper and freedom to prosper throughout the Asia-Pacific and other regions. 

It's a joint base, and you see -- and I had an opportunity earlier to see joint capabilities that are incredible.  For example, ground forces that can call air forces, air forces that can drop equipment to ground forces.  That's the joint power that, again, only America really exemplifies in that way. 

And it's all here at JBLM, and it's great, because they get to practice to one another -- they don't have to call to a distant base in order to find somebody who's in another service.  It's all right here. 

So this is a place that is incredibly important to our military, and I want everybody from the Washington area to know how grateful we are as a country to have partners like this.  We need a close bond between our military and our communities as a whole, and we have it here in the Seattle area, and in Washington in general.

It's exemplified by this base, and I on behalf of the Department of Defense, we're very, very grateful for it. 

So with that, let me take some questions, and I guess Peter's our impresario. 

(CROSSTALK) 

STAFF:  (off mic) start with Andrea. 

SEC. CARTER:  Andrea. 

Q:  Mr. Secretary, we’ve heard a lot about the work that’s been done here on the industry control assessment. And, there’s been some discussion about taking that out and using that expertise for other district control assessments — is that something that you are encouraging, how soon could that get rolling?    SEC. CARTER:  Itis something that is the reason to have this kind of capability.  And in our overall cyber force -- cyber mission teams that can be assigned to different missions, and they'll go somewhere, solve that problem, make a critical infrastructure in a particular place or a particular sector of the economy secure, and they can.  They can go work elsewhere.

By the way, I that we -- and we are doing some -- more of this, but I want to do more -- establish more units like this.  This is a pathfinding way of doing things.  Brings in the high-tech sector in a very direct way to the mission of protecting the country. 

So Andrea, absolutely, we're going to do more of it, and I expect it'll be done in other sectors and in other parts of the country.  And that is one of the missions of our cyber forces.  That's why we're building these new cyber forces. 

STAFF:  Adam? 

Q:  In a speech yesterday, you mentioned your -- (inaudible) -- forces here -- (inaudible) -- used for those threats? 

SEC. CARTER:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  North Korea and China -- in very, very different ways, I should say -- pose challenges to us that we simply must meet. 

North Korea is a daily threat because of the 60-now-some-year-old standoff on the DMZ.  Our allies in South Korea and Japan, threatened by North Korea.  North Korea, always threatening to mount an attack or an invasion of South Korea.  And we are an important part of that defense.  We're the backbone of that defense. 

We have a slogan -- we don't have a slogan, USFK -- U.S. Forces Korea -- has a slogan -- to be ready to fight tonight, every single night, for decades and decades, now.

So we stand alert there every single day, and if anything were to happen there -- a crisis or a war on the Korean Peninsula -- forces from JBLM would be part of the force flow that would strengthen the defenses of the Korean Peninsula, and ultimately, and very certainly, defeat North Korea and destroy its military. 

This would also be an important transit hub.  And finally, it's an important training place for the forces that would carry out that mission on the Korean Peninsula. 

With respect to China, we have a very different relationship -- a mixture of cooperation in some areas and competition elsewhere.  And China's rising, and that's a good thing, but it sometimes behaves aggressively, and that's a bad thing, and something that we need to check. 

It's concerning to us, and it's concerning to many friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and our posture here in the region has been one of the things that has kept -- in fact, the pivotal thing -- that has kept peace and security in Asia for decades now, and we aim to keep that going.

We talk about a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and the importance of this place, specific pathways and other things that are going on right here at JBLM -- that is because the United States aims, and will continue, to foster that environment in which everybody's gotten to rise for decades now. 

Think about it. Think about Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, now China and India.  Why is that?  Because they've had stability and peace.  Why have they had stability and peace?  Because of the pivotal role of American military power.

So we want everybody to be part of that.  And if China's behavior is self-isolating, we and others, our friends and allies -- many -- we have many friends and allies in the region -- will react. 

STAFF:  (off mic)? 

Q:  Thank you, sir. You mentioned a couple times this trip the Goldwater-Nichols will be coming sometime soon, can you give us a sense of what soon means? How it will impact the cyber mission in general? And if you’re concerned about push back, both inside and outside the building?

SEC. CARTER:  Yes.  It'll be in just a few weeks' time, and we'll propose things as we conclude our studies of them.  Some of these things will require legislation, and therefore we will be asking the Congress to consider them.  I hope they will be persuasive, and therefore accepted by the Congress.

In other cases, they won't be things that will require legislation at all.  There are things that I can do with my own authority, or the president can do with his own authority. 

But it's important to take a look at the Goldwater-Nichols structure, because it made a tremendous difference to our military.  It, for example, was the piece of legislation that essentially drove jointness in the U.S. military. 

And just take a look at what we have here today at JBLM, and you can see the -- (inaudible).  The J in JBLM is very real, and it's one of the secret sauces of the American military, is the ability to fight jointly.

So they did a lot of good things.  At the same time, that was a long time ago, so it makes sense, in view of the changes in the world, to take a look in the same fundamental way they did then. 

And to your question about cyber, yes that is part of it, because one of the things that's happened since the 1980s, when Goldwater-Nichols occurred, was cyber. 

But there are other things as well.  We're taking a look at the acquisition system, other command structures and the in respect to the acquisition system, for example, something I am very much in favor of -- and we have some ways of doing this, and are doing it -- which is to involve the armed services more heavily in the acquisition process.  I'm strongly in favor of that. 

So yeah, they'll be coming out in the next -- we won't necessarily do them all at once.  We'll do them as we conclude the studies underlying them.  Very shortly, we'll begin to do that. 

STAFF:  Okay, I got time for one more.  (inaudible)?

Q:  Secretary, This base has had major involvement In the Middle East since 9/11 of course, we keep hearing about this pivot to the Pacific and threats out there. What role does this base play anymore? And with all of the attention that needs to be paid there, you mentioned ISIL, can you afford to give up what this base has meant to that region?

SEC. CARTER:  Yep. 

Q:  Can we afford to give up what this base has meant to that region? 

SEC. CARTER:  Well, we're going to – We have to do it all.  So we are going to continue the rebalance.  We have the forces to do that.  We have some budget stability now, which is very important to us. 

So we're putting some of our most advanced forces -- not only more, but our most advanced forces -- in the Asia-Pacific, for the region -- reasons I described.  At the same time, we have to finish off ISIL.  We have to get that done.  I'm confident we will, but we need to do it as quickly as possible. 

Might there be forces from JBLM who participate in operations against ISIL, either in the Iraq-Syria theater or elsewhere to which it has metastasized?  Absolutely.  We have some of our best units here, and in some cases, units with absolutely unique capabilities. 

But the reality is that we have to defeat ISIL, we have to deter Russia and China, we have to counter Iran and its -- possibly aggression by Iran, and we have to stand watch on the DMZ against North Korea.  That is the situation in which we find ourselves.  That is what we have to do to protect America and make a better world for our children. 

And can we do it?  Yeah, we can, because we have the best. 

STAFF:  Thanks, everybody.  Appreciate it. 

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you all very much.