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Stennis Troop Talk

April 15, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin


I appreciate the introduction, and you should know that you've got great leadership here.  I've known the admiral for a long time, got a lot of regard for him and for all of you and what you do, and I'm here as always for you, and to say thank you.

And I'm going to do this a little bit more formally than normal, and the reason for that is that I have with me the defense secretary of the Philippines, Voltaire Gazmin, a good friend of mine, a great ally, great partner, and so in view of that and in view of the importance of your mission I'm going to -- my remarks are going to be a little bit formal okay, but bear with me -- it's about your mission and it's importance, so it's worth listening to.

And then when I'm done I'll take questions from you and find out what's on your mind or what you think I ought to know, or a question, and then I'll give an answer.  Okey-doke?

Let's -- first of all I want to say something about my counterpart here, Voltaire Gazmin. For 65 years now our two nations have been standing together, the United States and the Philippines, and America's commitment to the Philippines, I need to say this, remains iron clad, and Voltaire came out to see you and your shipmates in action.  He's going to say a few words to all of you in a moment, but he's been a longtime friend and colleague, of not only mine, but of the United States, and of this entire region, and of course a great defender of the Philippines. 

This has been a very busy and productive trip.  I visited India, where I saw some of your shipmates on the USS Blue Ridge, which was on port call in Goa.  We continued to make major advances there in the growing U.S.-India defense partnership, also important.

And I was in Manila for meetings yesterday with Voltaire and other Philippine leaders including the president.  Here also my visit was the occasion to inaugurate a major new era in a longstanding alliance, through the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, first of all, and our new Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative, second of all.  And as a result I'm proud to say this alliance is as close as it's been in years.

But one of my most important opportunities on this trip is to come to see you and to thank you.   And I want to thank your families also for their support during this deployment and the rest of the year.  I never forget that families serve, too.  Thank you for what you're doing here in the Asia-Pacific, and what you're doing with your lives, because what you do, which is defending your country and making a better world for our children is one of the noblest things you can be doing with your life.

I want you to know you should be proud of yourself, and how proud we are of you, not just in the Department of Defense, but the entire country.  I'm so proud to be in this department with you.

Every time I travel abroad, in conversations with counterparts like Voltaire and others, I always hear about how they like working with our folks, with people like you.  And when I ask why, they always say because of the values that you bring, the way that you conduct yourself, which is not only competent, awesomely competent, but it's respectful of other people, and they're right, and I want to thank each of you, not just for what you're doing, but perhaps, very importantly, how you're doing it.  You play an essential and pivotal role in this region, which I'll discuss in a moment, but you and the rest of the American military do that, and everything else around the world, in a principled and respectful way.  You don't intimidate people, coerce people or exclude people.

Instead the American style has always been to include people in protecting us all.  That's what you're doing right now.  You've deployed for over 90 days, but I'm sure none of you are counting -- although he is, I know -- you've steamed over 20,000 miles.  You've flown over 4,000 sorties, you've participate in exercises like Balikatan.  You've excelled in the 3MI and you've performed other important duties.  You've worked near the Republic of Korea, through the Sea of Japan, in Guam, and now in the South China Sea.

And this is not the Stennis' first time in these waters, or your last stop on this deployment.  The Stennis has sailed, not just here in the South China Sea, but all around the vast Asia-Pacific over many years, has been deployed, in the region six times just in the last several years, and this summer you'll take place -- part in RIMPAC, which is the largest international maritime exercise in the world.  All of that -- all of it -- you've done with the excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  And as you continue to do so you're part of a long line of Americans, men and women, sailors and Marines, soldiers and airmen, uniformed and civilian, who've played an essential and pivotal role in ensuring that the Asia-Pacific right here remains a region where everyone can rise and prosper.  That's been American policy for decades.  Regardless of what else was going on at home or in other parts of the world, during Democratic and Republican administrations and time of surplus and deficit, war and peace, through all of that, the United States had played a pivotal role -- economically, politically and military in the Asia-Pacific.

Along with a wide variety of partners and allies like the Philippines, the United States has for decades stood tall for enduring rules and principles, including the peaceful resolution of disputes, the ability of countries to make their own security and economic choices, free from coercion and intimidation, and freedom of navigation and overflight.

And Americans like you help provide the necessary security and stability for this nation and this region to thrive with our strong defense engagements here.  The United States has long provided the necessary reassurance, an attractive and appealing reassurance, and worked to keep the peace here in the Asia Pacific.  And the results, as you know, have been extraordinary.  Since World War II millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, have been lifted from poverty and into the middle class here.  And even though there's still room for improvement, democracy and freedom has spread to places across the region, and the -- and economic miracle after economic miracle has occurred in the region.  First Japan, then Taiwan, then South Korea, Southeast Asia, where we are now, all rose and prospered.  And today China and India are doing the same.

That progress creates opportunities for the region and for America to continue to grow, because we, after all, are a Pacific power, too.

But of course those big changes can also produce some negatives.  And recently not all of the news out of the Asia-Pacific has been positive.  Indeed in the South China Sea, China's actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.  In response, countries across the Asia-Pacific, both long-standing allies and new partners, are reaching out anew to the United States, to uphold the rules and principles that have allowed the region to thrive.  And we're answering that call.  We're standing with those countries.  We're standing up for those rules and principles.  We're making important new investments in defense technology, and we're continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we always will, thanks to you.

America's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, which President Obama announced five years ago now, aims to sustain the progress occurring all around this region.  As part of the rebalance we've revitalized our economic, political and military engagement in this, this right here, which is the single most consequential region of the world for America's future.

Militarily the Department of Defense is operationalizing the next phase of the rebalance and cementing it for the long term.  We're bringing our best people, people like you, and our best platforms, like the Stennis, forward to the Asia-Pacific.  We're making new investments in key capabilities and platforms, and we're deepening up our lateral relationships -- strengthening long-time alliances, like our relationship with the Philippines and deepening ties with newer partners, like India.

But in a large and interconnected region we're taking an additional step.  As the region changes the United States is networking our bilateral relationships with trilateral and multilateral arrangements, weaving these partnerships together to more effectively bolster American and regional security.  This is the network, peaceful, principled, and inclusive, that America continues to stand for and stand with.  It demonstrates the United States’ commitment to remaining an essential and pivotal leader in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.  And I never forget what makes all of that that possible -- and that's you.  You play the essential and pivotal role here.  You are operationalizing the rebalance.  You are making our growing security network work.  With every deployment and cruise by the Stennis, with every sortie, every exchange and port call, every time you participate in an exercise like Balikatan anywhere in the region, we add a stitch to the fabric of the region's security network.

You know, it's said that security is like oxygen -- when you have enough of it you pay no attention to it.  But when you don't have it, that's all you can think of.  You, your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, provide that oxygen, the security that allows millions upon millions of people, not just in America, and not just here in the Asia-Pacific, but in so much of the world, to be safe, to raise their children, to dream their dreams, to live lives that are full.  That's what it's all about, and we will continue to stand up for our safety and freedoms, for those of our friends and allies, and for the values, principles, and rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long.  Because we do so, because each of you does do, we all will continue to ensure the Asia-Pacific remains a region where everyone can rise and prosper for generations to come.

Thank you all for what you're doing out here. 

And now let me welcome my friend and our ally Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to say a few words -- Voltaire?  (Applause)

SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN:  Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, honorable Ashton Carter, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Philippines, his excellency Philip Goldberg, the United States exercise director -- or newly concluded exercise Balikatan 2016 Lieutenant General John Toolan.  The commanding officer, and officers, men and women of the USS John Stennis, and the personnel complement of the attached and embarked air wing, ladies and gentleman.

Allow me to thank Secretary Carter and Ambassador Goldberg for the generous invitation to this visit aboard the USS John Stennis.  Thank you, likewise, to the entire ship's company of this Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, bearing the optimistic motto, “look ahead.”  Fresh from our just concluded successful conduct of Philippines-United States exercise Balikatan 2016 I wish to convey our congratulations to all of the participants from the United States Armed Forces for a job very well done.

This annual joint training program between our two armed forces will surely enhance the individual and the joint and combined readiness of both of our participating units and personnel, in (inaudible) with the goals of the mutual defense treaty between our two countries.  This treaty is among the main reasons that has propelled this modern and state-of-the-art man of war of the United States Navy to sail from her homeport in NB Kitsap, Washington to the U.S. Seventh Fleet area of responsibility, and eventually to her deployment in the West Philippine Sea.  This is a clear exemplification of honor, courage, commitment -- the core values of the United States Navy.

We are as ever reliant on the strong bond of sympathy and mutual ideals shared by our two peoples, close friends and allies, to fight side by side against the threats of external aggression, as we did in the past.

It is in the spirit of the ideas of our alliance, and close relationship that we welcome the gallant crew of USS John Stennis, and the accompanying men of war of the carrier strike group, with the blue waters of the West Philippine Sea.

And as you say, let me borrow the optimism of your naval parlance, and wish you fair winds, clear skies and following seas.

Thank you, and a professionally rewarding (inaudible). (Applause).

(UNKNOWN):  And we'll now take a few questions.

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.  Doesn't even have to be a question.  It can be something you think I don't know.

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  I'm (inaudible) from the (inaudible)

I was wondering -- my question is, how does the government going to prevent cyberattacks from China?

SEC. CARTER:  The question was, how's the government going to prevent cyber attacks from China, as the example?

China is one of actually many countries that we have found engaging in cyber misbehavior.  I don't want to call it an attack, because some of it is about robbing industrial secrets and that sort of thing, and it's just one -- I want to make that point, but since your question is about China, actually there we may have made some progress forward, because when the two presidents were together, now six months ago or so, they reached an agreement to stop doing that, and we're watching and seeing if that agreement is honored.

With that said -- and that's good and that's positive, but that's China; it doesn't take care of everybody else around the world.

And the basic answer to your question is, we've got to be good at defending our networks, but you can't count on anybody not to try to exploit networks as a way of creating vulnerability for you.  Now that's most important in our networks in the Defense Department, the networks that you depend on here.  They're the ones we most need to defend.  And we're making huge investments in that, both dollars and really good people, talented people -- maybe you're one of them.  And additionally we -- that is the Defense Department, we try to help the broader society to defend itself against cyberattacks.  

Some of this is just from pranks.  Some of it is from companies trying to steal their secrets and some of it is by people who want to do damage, including governments that want to have the ability to do damage, so whatever it -- wherever it comes from, we've got to be able to defend ourselves in the first instance, and then, people ought to know that if you attack us -- I don't care how you attack us -- cyber or whatever, an attack is an attack -- and we're going to respond.  Not necessarily in cyber, but we'll respond in the way we choose. But you'll be sorry you did it. 

Q:  Thank you, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  Oh okay, great.  Hi.

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  I'm (inaudible) from the CRMB.

Something you may know is China's misbehaving right now, but I was just wondering why we're still allowing them to participate in RIMPAC?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, the question was why are we still allowing China to participate in RIMPAC, and you're right to use the word "allow," because actually we issued the invitations, and we have not taken the step of disinviting them.  And I'll give you some of the logic behind that.  The -- our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that's our basic approach.  So we -- even as we stand strong, and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies, and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we didn't -- we don't have decades of experience with, like the Philippines.  They're all coming to us, in part because they're concerned about China.

But we're still taking the approach of, -- that everybody ought to work together here, so if the Chinese want to participate, I think it's the right place for us to be.  Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said the Asian miracle possible.

And remember, it's been very good for the United States also in every way.  So that's the reason for now.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

Q:  Good afternoon sir.  My name is (inaudible) from the VFA 14.

And my question is, with the increase in the use of social media as a means of terrorist recruitment, does the United States have a means of deterrence or response to this new domestic threat?

SEC. CARTER:  A really good question.  The question is, is use of social media in -- by terrorists, and do we have a good system of deterrence and response?

So first thing is, you know, look at ISIL.  ISIL's a social media fueled -- the first social media-fueled terrorist group.  Remember al Qaeda was kind of an internet thing, and this is now a social media thing, so it's serious business, because these guys are able to go out and troll for people who are dissatisfied here and there and so forth.

And so you asked about deterrence.  I mean, my basic answer to ISIL is we're going to destroy them, and we're going to do that first in Syria an Iraq, because that's where this evil group arose, and the reason why to some people it has some sort of twisted appeal is in part because it claims to be something it's never going to be, which is a state based upon these evil principles.  And so we need to destroy that idea by defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and we're busy doing that.

Now it's a whole other subject and a whole other place, and some of your fellow sailors are off doing that, and doing extremely well.  And I'm confident we'll be successful.

It meant -- you know, it kind of spreads in little patches everywhere around the world, including Southeast Asia, and there also it has to be combated, and will be combated.

I think the general answer though, not just for the United States, but for other countries like you see happening in Europe, and other countries like -- of this region, China, which has some subpopulations that can be terrorist, Russia, that's long has a difficult time with Islamist terrorists, India, which has issues with terrorism, Pakistan and a lot of countries around this region have issues with terrorism.  

And the social media gives them a new tool, and we have to -- they're basically two responses to that, was the base of your question.  One is to destroy them in the old-fashioned way, which is destroy them.  And the other is, we have to get better at countering social media, and it's partly by telling our own story, which is basically the truth, but it's also partly by not allowing these guys to use the internet to do command control, to dominate populations, to take money from other people, pass money around the world, and we're doing that right now.  Our cyber command -- this is their first big operation in cyber, is to go into Iraq and Syria and take that tool away from these characters in Iraq and Syria, and that's what we're working on now.

Q:  Thank you, sir. 

SEC. CARTER:  Okay?  All right, listen, once again thank you so much.  You make me so proud.  You are what I wake up for every day, every single day. You're doing such wonderful things out here.  I'm so incredibly proud of you.  

To my friend Voltaire Gazmin, thank you.  Thank everyone in the Philippines. What a wonderful region this has been for many decades, and will continue to be, thanks to our partnership, and thanks to strong folks like you. (Applause.)