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Media Availability with Secretary Carter in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

Nov. 2, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Here at Fort Leonard Wood, a very important and impressive installation that does so much for our armed forces.  It is a central basic training facility for us, where we get these great new young Americans for our all-volunteer force.  And they become the skilled and awesome soldiers that our public is so accustomed to having our in armed forces.  And then there's some specialties here in the center of -- centers of excellence, dealing with combat engineering, dealing with military police, and with chemical, nuclear, biological and radiological defenses, how all those critical areas to our armed forces.  

And -- so this is a facility that -- whose importance to our armed forces will continue as far into the future as I can see it.  

I'm very grateful for the support of the local community and the state, the legislatures who came out here today to be with us.  It's a state that's extremely hospitable to our armed forces.  I don't take that for granted, and I thank you.  

And then I'll take questions.

STAFF:  You have some questions from both our travelers and local.  

I'll start -- we'll start local here, sir?

Q:  OK, tell us a little bit of why you hate to report on -- you had an interesting (inaudible).  (Inaudible), you know, at the beginning, when you (inaudible).

SEC. CARTER:  Well, as I said, it's an important installation, and the secretary of defense would want to come here at any time, but it has particular meaning right now.  

As you see our plan for the expulsion of ISIL, the destruction of ISIL in the city of Mosul, Iraq, and everywhere else in Iraq and Syria, and everywhere else ISIL is.  Right now, that's going on, and one of the ways in which we are enabling Iraqi Security Forces to take back that city in Iraq is, because our combat engineers have trained the combat engineers that are in the U.S. units that are over there right now, tonight, helping the Iraqis.

They help the cross rivers, they help them deal with explosives and barriers, and all the kinds of defenses that ISIL has tried to erect around Mosul.  So if you want to know the here and now, the significance, the strategic significance, of what goes on here at Fort Leonard Wood, you just need to turn on your television and look at the battle from Mosul.

STAFF:  Idris?

Q:  Two quick questions.  The first thing on Mosul, now that they’ve actually reached the inside of the city, for the first time, do you expect the base of operations to change in terms of (inaudible) striking (inaudible).  

And secondly on Raqqa (inaudible) in the United States and Turkey on (inaudible) you said that as far as the operation (inaudible) weeks overlapping with Turkey.  (Inaudible).  So where are you on Turkey on this (inaudible) option to start an operation in Raqqa without the (inaudible)? 
SEC. CARTER:  Well, there's the same -- let me start with the situation in Mosul first.  That is proceeding according to plan.  The character of the tactical situation will obviously change day to day, but as you indicated, also changes as the cordon gets closer, the noose gets tighter and tighter around Mosul.  The enemy might choose various tactics.  We don't know which ones they will, but we're be ready for anything.  And the Iraqi Security Forces are ready for anything.  

       With respect to Raqqa, we intend to go there soon with the force that is capable of doing that, and enveloping the city of Raqqa, and then you're right, the final seizure of Raqqa.  We continue to talk to Turkey about that, and a possible role for Turkey in that further down the road.  

What we're doing with Turkey right now, which is extremely important, and it is worth mentioning is, we are working with Turkey in the region between Jarablus and the Mara Line, which helps secure the Turkish border there.

So we have ongoing operations with our ally Turkey right now.  And those operations led to the taking of the city of Dabiq.  You had mentioned Mosul and Raqqa, but Dabiq also has importance also, because remember, that was the city after which ISIL had named its magazine.  Well now they'll have to find a different name for their magazine, because that city was taken.  And it was taken by Turkish and U.S. forces enabling again, the way our strategic approach there is to enable local people who can hold a city once it's taken.  That's the way we did Manbij, that's the way we did Ramadi, Hit, Rubah, all of these cities, and that's the way we'll win the campaign.

Q:  (off mic)

SEC. CARTER:  It's an -- allied as part of the coalition we work with, and we'll continue to talk with Turkey about its role in the eventual seizure of Raqqa, but we're proceeding now with the operation according to our plan, and we're working with them in northern Syria.  

STAFF:  Zach

Q:  Sir, on Mosul, you said it's going according to plan.  One of the (inaudible) of that plan has been Iraqi forces moving in from the east, and Shia militias taking up to fill in much of the western side of the city.  For a while that was fairly open, and there were all sorts of reports of ISIS fighters moving back toward Syria in that direction.  Was that part of the plan, to drive some of the fighters out back toward Syria?  Or is that more just a factor in the way the (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  I don't want to go into details of the plan.  The plan always was -- and now this goes back a year or so -- to do the envelopment of Mosul from the east and the north and the south.  There may be -- that -- and in particular, it's important that that is a direction from which, if there are people who leave their homes can go and we -- and the U.N. and the other aid agencies will be prepared there to provide them with the humanitarian assistance they require.

It may be that ISIL fighters fled in the direction of Syria and if that's the case, then we'll -- then we'll destroy them there on the way or we'll destroy them in Syria.  What's certain is they're going to get destroyed.

STAFF:  Paula

Q:  If (inaudible) our allies do recapture Mosul, how long will -- or I guess I should say what kind of (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  We will have a number of smaller towns that we will systematically, and part of our plan is to, again, always with the approval of Prime Minister Abadi, consolidate the Iraqis' government -- government's control of the entirety of its territory.  It doesn't end with Mosul.  And everybody understands that.

And -- but again, I want to emphasize this will continue to be under the leadership of Prime Minister Abadi.  It is his forces and his forces only that we assist and enable.  And its his forces and his forces only that have been victorious, right on all the way up running south from north.  It has been Prime Minister Abadi's forces that have done it, with our help, without which -- without the coalition's help, the Iraqi Security Forces couldn't have made this advance.

But make no mistake, it's their work that we're enabling.

Q:  One more question.  Speaking of (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF:  I'm sorry, we've got -- we've got a bunch of other folks who would like to ask questions.

Q:  OK.

STAFF:  Courtney and then we'll go to Mark.

Q:   Sir, last week you announced that plans to create a new chief innovation officer position, and I know that (inaudible) recommendation from the Defense Innovation Board that (inaudible).  Was that also driven by the position of (inaudible) that would support the acquisition officer position (inaudible), two roles in the one, (inaudible) an innovation officer?  (Inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  No.  It -- it wasn't at all.  And I don't think that's a good idea, the idea of the NDAA.  And I've made that clear.  And this is a good idea, which is completely different.  They may have the same name, but they're completely different things.  And to get to this CIO as we are going to create it, that was an idea that did come out of the Defense Innovation Board, a new board, very distinguished people, including the chairman, Eric Schmidt, who happens to be joining us here today.  And I asked him to do that.

And it's an example of something that other institutions have done in order to signify and drive innovation.  And what they will do is -- with the assistance of the Defense Innovation Board, but other sources, as well -- look for what we're looking for -- and I described earlier when I was talking to the troops, which is innovative things that would help our mission of defense that are going on outside of the Defense Department but that we can apply.

Now, not everything is like that.  But there are a lot of innovative companies out there.  They're doing innovative things.  It's important for us to have our antennas up and be learning from the outside.  We're a learning institution.  We're the best military in the world and one of the reasons for that is that we're free and open about innovation.  We're willing to change.  We're willing to listen.

This is a way for us to get some additional ideas, in addition to the ones we think about -- think of ourselves, or that experience teaches us, about how to do -- how -- how to get better.  And it's been successful already.  I've gotten any of ideas -- you just named one -- from the Innovation Board and I expect more -- more to come.  It's very fruitful.

STAFF:  The last question from Mark?

Q:  Sir (inaudible) reported that (inaudible) $6 billion (inaudible).

Is that figure accurate?  Is that allocation accurate?  And is there going to be a (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, let me tell you it is accurate.  We -- and I've been saying this since we first submitted our OCO bill.  OCO -- I'm just reminding everyone, you -- you know this, but I'm not sure everybody knows this -- is the part of the budget that covers the costs of ongoing conflicts.  It's in the nature of warfare that we can't know at the beginning of the year fully what everything is going to cost.  And in particular, if we're having additional success and we want to reinforce that success -- and that has been our experience in -- in the counter-ISIL campaign and also in Afghanistan, we want to have the funds to do that.  And I -- and so we're going to ask for them.

We haven't settled on how much those are.  We're still doing those estimates and assessing the situation.  And when we settle upon a figure, that's what we'll submit to Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF:  Thanks, everybody.

We appreciate it.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you all.