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Remarks at Osan Air Force Base Troop Call in the Republic of Korea

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work
August 22, 2014

STAFF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of Osan, it is my privilege to introduce the honorable Robert Work, our 32nd deputy secretary of defense. In his role as the deputy, he works everything from strategy to restructuring, and he is visiting the Pacific region and will chair our nation's rebalance in this area.

It has been said that he knows and works strategy first and weapons second with an incredible amount of intuition in going from goals to resources.

He has worked at the Center for Strategic Budget Analysis. He has been the head of the Center for New American Security.

Could you sit down? Sorry about that.

He has a degree in biology, systems management, and space systems operation.

He is a marine and always will be a marine.

And so sir, welcome to team Osan, to our home, and to our foxhole. (applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BOB WORK: Well, it's great to be here (inaudible) today.

I was born into a marine family. I went to DOD schools my entire life. I went to -- graduated from a DOD high school in Rota, Spain. I went to the University of Illinois and the NROTC program. I spent 27 years in the Marine Corps. Then I spent about seven or eight years writing about our nation's military, and I was fortunate enough to be the undersecretary of the Navy, and now I get to be the deputy secretary.

So, it is true, I work a lot of strategy. And I work a lot of budgets. But I know a secret that very few people outside of this room and outside of the U.S. military know. Everybody thinks that the United States military is strong because of our smart bombs or because of our B-2 bombers, or because of our F-16s, or because of our A-10s, or because of our Patriot (inaudible). But I know the real secret: the strength of our armed forces are the people in this room and the people you represent around the United States and throughout the world.

One of the reasons why I'm so jazzed to be here this afternoon is I go and do a lot of things. I went to the CP Tango to look at what is happening, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, I was able to talk with the defense minister yesterday. I was able to talk with a wide variety of leaders. But this is what I really like to do because it keeps me grounded. It reminds me every day of why I love my job and why I want to make sure that we spend every single dollar that we have wisely and in support of all of you.

So, I'm not going to give a long speech. I would much rather hear from you, because this is what -- like I say, I can go back to Washington, D.C.. I can visit all sorts of installations. I can talk with a lot of leaders. But the people who this nation really relies upon are all of you.

So, really what I'd like to hear from is you, and I -- you can talk about anything you wish. It doesn't matter. If I don't know the question or know the answer, I'll make sure that you get the answer. But I'd like to hear from you what your concerns are, what you think I ought to be thinking about as the deputy secretary.

So, who's going to be the first? Has somebody been designated to be the first question? That's usually what happens. So who's going to ask the first question?

Q: Hello sir.

MR. WORK: All right.

Q: Can you hear me?

Sir, Staff Sergeant Toms.


Q: 6-5-2. I'm in the air defense artillery branch.

MR. WORK: Oorah.

I have to say that air defense artillery is the second best artillery. I was a marine artilleryman, so yeah, hope you don't mind.


Just want to make that clear for the crowd.

Q: Sir, with a lot of focus being placed on unmanned aircraft, do you -- do you think later on down the line, everything is going to be unmanned, or do you think we're always going to have some kind of personnel manning all of those aircraft?

MR. WORK: Well, you know, this is a question that gets asked all the time. Yeah, where are we going? What's going to happen with everything. And to me it is never going to happen. Unmanned systems are going to be central to the future, right, but we're never going to get to Skynet. I don't believe it.

There's a (inaduble) book called "Average is Over." And this guy was actually talking about (inaudible). Anyway, there was this part where he was talking about that it used to be thought that a computer would never beat a human in chess. That a computer just wouldn't have the intuition to plan ahead. But sure enough, after awhile, and we know now, the computers really do beat humans, and they've beat them consistently.

What he said was what's happening now is -- he calls it three play chess. And it's when humans and a computer work together to play the game. And in three play chess, when you have manned and unmanned systems, or computers working together, they consistently beat the computer alone, and they consistently beat the human alone.

So, what's going to happen -- and that is why I think we have an advantage in this regime. Because we're going to figure out how to do three play combat, in which humans and unmanned systems work together to really get the best out of both.

So, I think this is -- I'll never ever think that we're going to go to a fully robotic force, because again, the secret weapon of our armed forces are our people. I am just surprised all the time about how innovative and mission oriented we are.

Yesterday morning, we're flying out of Guam. So, you know, when you're the deputy secretary you say, "hey there's a B-2 over there, kinda like to take a picture in front of it," and everybody goes "OK."

(inaudible). So we go down to the B-2s, and the first person we bump into is Airman Taylor. And Airman Taylor didn't care that I was the deputy secretary of defense, and didn't care that General Toth was a one-star. What he knew is he was the person who was guarding the B-2s, and he said, "Stop, who are you? Why are you here? Why are you coming into my space?"

General Toth got out [and told] him, "I'm General Toth. You know, I want to come down here to get a picture." He says, "Well, that's great sir, but are you on my list?" And he had about -- (inaudible). So, General Toth -- (inaudible). So we finally got past Airman Taylor.

So then we go up and take the picture. But there is an -- (inaudible) -- and -- (inaudible) -- is in charge of security of the B-2, and I have a photographer, and the photographer is starting to take pictures, he said, "Wait, stop, who are you? Who are you taking these pictures for?" "I'm taking the picture for the deputy secretary of defense." "I don't care. I don't care who that is, the deputy secretary is, you're not allowed to take these pictures."

Now, how many -- I mean this type of stuff where U.S. servicemen everywhere are mission-oriented. They follow -- they know what the rules are. They're not swayed by, you know, rank. They want to do the right job. Airman Taylor and Airman Robinson, that's what makes our force great. They're going to do the job no matter what. They don't know what – (inaudible)they were kind of called in – and out of Guam -- and they did the right thing.

This is the kind of stuff that I will always, always, always, whenever I come to the field, I am always amazed at what you can all do, and what we can do together.

Another question. I keep being told I have to -- (inaudible) -- so who's going to be next?

Yes? (off-mike.)

I'll get you the number.

Q: Sir, Commander Mike (inaudible), 352nd. Sir, we're lucky enough to serve alongside some very motivated Korean counterparts, and our relationships are really strong. And it's the advantage of our alliance, I think.

Sir, my question is, in the next decade, how do you envision maintaining our technological advantage to support military capabilities for the alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, despite financial responsibilities?

MR. WORK: Well, it's a great question. And to be here for the last two days has really been something. I mean, the U.S.-Korean alliance is the linchpin of security in Northeast Asia. And our alliance has been strong for 60 years.

Every war that the United States has had, South Korea has been right alongside us: in Vietnam, in Operation Desert Storm, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

When the South Koreans needed help on evacuating their personnel from Libya, they asked for our help, for ISR, and we immediately gave them to it, because this is such a very, very strong alliance.

And when I come here and I watch up in CP Tango, when I see both sides working together, this is really, really a strong alliance. So, what I was telling people -- and my perspective, we have to work on four things, really, to get better together. Because we go together. We go forward together.

So, the first issue is the area of missile defense. North Korea has an awful lot of missiles. We have to get better at it. We have to integrate our forces together.

C4I, our command, control, and communications computer and intelligence, and ISR: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, we need to really link these together so that we get better.

So, these type of things, we can make our alliance better, but I've gotta tell you, this is one of the strongest alliances we've ever had. And we value the partnership with South Korea. And together, we are going to make sure that deterrence holds in Northeast Asia.

So I think it's -- this is just a great, great partnership, and it was really good to be here.

All right, you've been waiting.

Q: Sir, Lance Corporal (inaduble) -- 48. My question for your has been what do you think has been the most positive change that you've seen in the military since you've served?

MR. WORK: Wow, that's easy. The all-volunteer force.

I was commissioned in 1974. The all-volunteer force was signed into law in 1973. My first duty station was Okinawa, 1975. So, when I arrived, all of the draftees had washed out of the force.

Now, the all-volunteer force wasn't -- I mean, this was a long time ago. You all have grown up in an all-volunteer force. But we weren't certain we were going to be able to make it work.

And so for the first five years, it was really, really hard. We didn't put enough money into it. And so the quality of our folks were not as good as they are today.

So, in the 1980s, we got that all sorted out. President Reagan came aboard, two big pay raises. We got the urinalysis, which allowed us to identify we had a drug problem. It allowed us to identify those -- the people who were taking drugs. And we had the expeditious discharge program, which allowed us to remove people who really didn't or shouldn't have been on armed services.

And since then, our all-volunteer force has gotten stronger and stronger and stronger. So, from the time I came aboard, we now have an instrument in the United States military. This is an extremely, extremely proficient all-volunteer force. And without question in my mind, that's been the key difference of my entire time serving in the military, shifting from a conscript force to an all-volunteer force. It's been very successful for us.

What else? (inaudible)

Q: From the 36th fighter squadron.

MR. WORK: 36th. How about you?


25th. All right.

Q: (Senior ?) Airman (Bigman ?), 25th weapon loading. Was wondering if you had a time-table for how long the A-10 to stay in service, and if you had any future plans to replace it?

MR. WORK: Did somebody point this question? (laughter.)

Well, the question on the A-10 is really -- I mean, it's -- first of all, you know, as a marine, this is -- everybody said that if an airplane looks good, it's really good. This is an ugly airplane, and it is really good. I mean, all of the people who have worked on the ground love this airplane, love everything it has ever given to our armed forces.

And the chief of staff of the Air Force is a A-10 pilot. I mean, he's got -- I think he has 3,000 hours in the plane. And what is happening as the budget comes down, we've had to make hard choices. We've really had to make hard choices.

And the choice the Air Force made was we're going to go for two reasons. One, we're going to go to more multi-purpose platforms instead of single-purpose platforms. That's the key thing. And the second thing is we want to be able to get the best spending out of every dollar, and it's extremely expensive to keep the A-10 in the service. That's just the cold, hard facts.

So the Air Force made the very difficult decision to retire the A-10. The Congress, in our -- you know, the way it works, so we've got a board of directors, the 535 congressmen and Senators. And they're not yet convinced that we should get rid of the A-10. And so they've sent a signal, that they say, "Hey not so fast. We want to think about it." We believe that getting rid of the A-10 is the right thing to do. It's been a heck of an airplane -- and, but we think its time has passed.

And so they send a signal that they say, hey, not so fast, we want to think about it. We believe that getting rid of the A-10 is the right thing to do. It's been a heck of an airplane, and -- but we think its time has passed.

So, we're not certain though which way it's going to go. I would guess, you know, we're going to find out. Congress is going to tell us whether or not they want us to retire the airplane or not.

In our democracy, the Congress, you know, maintains the Navy and raises the Army and the Air Force. And so what they want us to do, they are convinced that this bird still has a long life left in it, so you'll have to see. The decision hasn't quite yet been made.

STAFF: Sir, we have time for one more question.

MR. WORK: Okay, do you have another question? Yes?

Q: Sir, Staff Sergeant (Lewis ?) (inaudible) from (inaudible).

There's been a lot of emotion with the terrorist group ISIL, and their occupation with Iraq and Syria. Is there a plan of action to prevent American forces or to send American to Iraq and Syria.

MR. WORK: That's a great question. Well, first of all, ISIL is a really, really bad. I mean, they're so bad that Al Qaeda has disowned them. So you know you have to pretty bad if Al Qaeda says, man, these guys are too bad. We don't even want to be in the same room as these guys. So you know that they're really bad.

(Inaudible) They are extraordinarily bloodthirsty. It is just unbelievable what they are doing to the people of the areas in which they take over.

So what was happening is they were spreading throughout Iraq, and the president made the decision, okay, we have got to -- we've got to protect the American forces in Erbil, Baghdad, and we have to protect the strategic infrastructure in Iraq, which we did.

So for the last about two days we've really been hitting ISIL hard from the air. So way to go Air Force, and way to go Navy. It's been the airplanes from the USS George Bush. There have been MQ-9s, MQ-1s. There have been all sorts of -- there have been AC-130s, and we have been able to really knock ISIL back on their heels, and we were able to help the KRG take back the Mosul Dam.

So this is the first time that ISIL has really been defeated.

So now, the next question is, how do you take care of this problem? And we're debating this now. And whatever's going to happen it's going to be by having regional partners, and the United States is going to be central to this. This is not a -- this is not going to a group that we want to hang -- you know, to stay around.

And right now, no decisions have been made. The president's made clear right now there's not going to be any boots on the ground.

You know, people ask me how I sleep every night, and I say, I sleep like a baby -- I wake up crying every two hours. (Laughter.)

So the reason why I go back to sleep, again, is because of people like you. I can not tell you how proud I am to be the deputy secretary of defense, and how proud Secretary Hagel, former Army sergeant, how proud he is.

Everyday when we talk, all we talk about is how do we make it better for the men and women who serve in uniform, and how do we make it better for our allies and our partners, like South Korea. How do we do that? Even when money is coming down, how do we do it?

So there's still a lot of hard choices ahead. But as I said, I know in the bottom of my heart what the real secret weapon is of the United States, and it is the men and women who serve in (our ?) uniform.

So I want to thank you. I know you probably -- how long have you been sitting here? Tell me the truth.

(Inaudible) Okay, you've got to tell me.

Q: (Inaudible). About 20 minutes.

MR. WORK: Twenty minutes.

Q: Give or take.

MR. WORK: Give or take. (Laughter.) (Inaudible)

Like I said, this is why I mean it's so important for me to come out and talk with you and see you and look you in the face and say, "How are you doing?" So I can go back to the secretary and say, "You know Mr. Secretary, things are really looking good out there. We've got great morale. We've got great mission-oriented folks."

So thank you for taking the time out this afternoon. I know you probably -- this is probably going to put you a little behind and you'll have to a little -- a couple extra hours of work to make up for the time being here. But I really wanted to thank you on behalf of Secretary Hagel and myself for everything you do out here and for the alliance and our Korean partners, and this is such an important alliance for us.

So God bless you all, and be safe. And I hope to see you around. Thanks a lot. (Applause.) 

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