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Remarks by Deputy Secretary Carter aboard the USS Eisenhower

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
October 19, 2012

            CAPTAIN MARCUS HITCHCOCK:  At ease, please.  Okay.  It is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce our deputy secretary of defense, Dr. Ashton Carter.  Dr. Carter is one of this nation's most distinguished minds and greatest public servants, and he has taken this opportunity to come out and see you here at sea in the Central Arabian Gulf. 

            Dr. Carter's resume is that he, again, is a distinguished academic, studying physics and medieval history at Yale, going on to a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.  He has also been an adviser to many corporate boards, as well as one the board, of a number of other businesses. 

            But since 1990, he has been a distinguished public servant of our Department of Defense, starting off as an assistant secretary of defense, rising to an undersecretary of defense, and today he is the number-two man in the Department of Defense as the deputy secretary of defense. 

            He's come to see you, as I said, to say hello, and also he's been a staunch supporter of fulfilling urgent needs of our warfighters at sea and on land.  He is also always constantly searching out methods to secure our nations from [weapons of mass destruction] WMD and other emerging threats.  So Ike Five-Star Warriors, please give me a huge round of applause for deputy secretary of defense, Dr. Carter.  (Applause.) 

            So, Dr. Carter, on behalf of the entire crew of the Five-Star Warriors, I'd like to present you with one of our ball caps, as well as one of our "I Like Ike" pins.  And you see this everywhere.  It says, "I Like Ike, See Me in '69," it has been warn by presidents, by first ladies, by secretaries, as well as princes and princesses.  And so we're very proud of it.  It's been with the crew for 37 years, so thank you, sir, and appreciate you coming out.  (Applause.) 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON B. CARTER:  Let’s try it on here.  How does it look?  (Applause.)  Thank you, Captain Hitchcock.  Thank you, Admiral Manazir, also, for your hospitality today, but the real reason I came here was to say thank you to each and every one of you.  I want you sometime in the next 24 hours, each and every one of you, to make a call to whoever's close to you, whether it's a spouse or a mom, a dad, kids, or someone particularly close to you, and tell them that today, from your country to you, the leadership of your department to you, came a special word of thanks. 

            So thanks for what you do out here, the remarkable things you do aboard this ship.  In a moment, I want to say why it's so important.  But I know it hasn't come easily.  You've been at it now for five months, a lot of sacrifices involved in doing that.  You're been on an extended tour, abnormally long.  Sorry we asked you to do that, but you'll see in a moment why we did and why it's so important that you rose to the call. 

            There really isn't anything more important at this moment than this place for the security of the United States.  You're working here, I don't know, 12, 13, 14 hours a day, to keep our planes flying, keep the ships running, down in the engine room, down in the reactor compartment, where I just was, and I know these are tough jobs, but you -- think of it this way -- you have the privilege to wake up every morning and go to sleep every night knowing that you do something that's bigger than yourself.  Not everybody in life can do that.  You can. 

            And, in fact, since you serve the United States of America, you're doing more even than serving that great nation, because so much of the world still depends on the United States for its security.  You're serving the entire world.  So that's a great feeling that I share with you, and it's a wonderful thing.  However hard the work is, the wonderful feeling to get up in the morning and know that you're bigger -- you're part of something that's bigger than yourself. 

            Why -- let me say why it's so important to be here at this time and in this place, maintaining security and stability in the Persian Gulf.  When you ask a lot of Americans, "Why would the Ike be out here?", what comes to their mind right away, of course, is Afghanistan, right?  Because they see that every day in the newspapers.  They understand that.  They would understood that you're providing support to the fight in Afghanistan. 

            And that's an incredibly important thing to be doing.  You do it remarkably well.  We count on you to do it.  I'll be in Afghanistan tomorrow, and I can just tell you -- I'll see ground units there who are so grateful that you're here doing what you do for them. 

            But you know that the mission doesn't stop with Afghanistan at all.  You have a broader mission of deterring aggression in the gulf, and you know that there are potential aggressors there.  And without you, they might try something that would be unfortunate them if they tried it.  And you stop them. 

            You look around this region -- let me try that.  Okay.  You know, when you say Arab Spring, all the microphones go dead, because that's what I mean by something that causes instability.  And that's really what I was going to say. 

            The Arab Spring tells you that not only are there the Irans and other potential aggressors, but there's all this instability in this region that you see reflected in the Arab Spring, you see right now in Syria, and you all are the stability that counters that instability. 

            And in the next couple of years, of course, the war in Afghanistan won't end.  We've got two tough more years of fighting there, but we do plan at least to wind down in a couple years.  So we in this region and you aboard carriers like this will be changing the balance of what you do over the next couple of years from a strong focus on Afghanistan today, to those other problems and challenges that will define the future of this region. 

            So the point is that what you're doing is incredibly important now, and it's not going to -- it's not going to die down anytime soon.  It's a very, very important mission for the world and for all of us.  And it's not just a matter of being able to respond to aggression and support our troops.  There's another thing that we do out here which is you assure all of the people of goodwill -- and that's most people -- you assure them that they live in a world in which the right thing is done, justice is stood up for, democracy is stood up for, and all the things that you care about, they, too, can hope for and aspire to.  And you give them that hope, that they can have the kinds of stable environment in which that could happen. 

            So both deterring aggression and countering instability and giving hope to the great majority of people here who deserve that hope that they can have a better future, all those things you do.  And that's why I thank you and Secretary Panetta thanks you. 

            And we know, by the way, that that thanks doesn't stop with you, that you have families, that you have friends, that you have those who count on you, who love you, who worry about you, and they're part of the force to.  And so when you're thanking them, which, remember, you have to do, sometime in the next 24 hours, and telling them that you were thanked, thank them for their support of you, as well. 

            And from me and Secretary Panetta, and all the leadership of the department, make sure that they know that we know that our most sacred duty to you and to them is to take care of you.  We do our very best to do that. 

            So let me tell you a little something about as you do this very important mission here at this time in this place, what, as we look out over the future, that future holds for our nation and for the Navy and for the world outside of this region.  And let me tell you a little something about how it looks at least to me after a decade now -- and over a decade of war, since September 11, 2001, we find ourselves in defense in our country at a moment of great transition. 

            For 11 years, we have been focused in the department and I as much as anyone else, and you -- on two wars, one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, two wars in two particular places, two wars of a particular kind, counterinsurgency, and that had to be done.  It has to be done still.  And it's been done, and it's being done very well. 

            But it's also true that while we have been fighting these two wars for this 10 years, the rest of the world hasn't stood still.  Technology hasn't stood still.  Our friends and enemies elsewhere, they haven't stood still, either. 

            So the time has come right now for all of us to look up and look around and look forward, beyond the era of Iraq and Afghanistan, and say, what's next?  What are the security challenges that are going to define this nation's and this world's future? 

            That's the transition that I'm talking about.  And that is the reason why we have designed a new defense strategy for that new era.  That's what we did last year, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the rest of the leadership, working very closely with President Obama, who was himself very personally involved in this.  And what we're trying to do was build the force of the future, say to ourselves, what are we going to need in a Navy, an Air Force, Marine Corps, and so forth not next year, but in 2020, in that next era?  What are we going to do?  What are we going to need? 

            We're going to need a force that's agile.  It's going to have to be lean.  It's got to be ready on a moment's notice.  It's got to be technologically advanced.  So you know what that sounds like to me?  It sounds like the U.S. Navy -- operators of a joint force.  That's a bright future for the Navy. 

            And it's a Navy that's got to be able to conduct full-spectrum operations and execute a broad range of operations.  It's got to be a Navy that's ready.  And that gets back to what you're doing here in this region and the word "presence."  Presence does two things.  Presence is necessary for two things.  It's important that you're here and not in Norfolk.  Now, that might seem obvious to you, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, but suppose Afghanistan goes away.  Why should the Ike be here and not in Norfolk?  Why is presence important? 

            And there are basically two reasons for that.  The first is that, in today's world, conflicts unfold very quickly.  In the old days, in the Desert Storm days, we took six months, eight months, or longer, to wind up.  And our way of dealing with enemies was to say, “Look, Buster, you get out of line today, in six months, you'd better watch out, because that's when we'll be there.” 

            You can't do that in today's world.  Today's world moves too fast.  It has to be, “Listen, Buster, if you get out of line, in six hours you'll be in trouble.”  You can only do that by being there.  So in this era, presence is necessary as a matter of military utility. 

            It also is necessary for that mission of assurance that I talked about earlier.  The best way not to have to use the combat power on this ship is to make sure that the good people who predominate in most places are taking care of the bad people themselves, don't need us, and have the safety and security they need to build their own future.  The only way they can have that is to know that we're around and ready to help them if they can't take care of themselves. 

            So we've got to be there quick if there's trouble, and being here all the time provides that assurance.  That's why you can't be in Norfolk, why you have to be here, and why our future Navy has to be one that is ready and present. 

            In addition to being in this part of the world and moving our effort from Afghanistan to broader problems in the region over the next couple years, the other thing you'll see your Navy doing is shifting some of its effort to the Asia Pacific region.  You probably heard about that so-called rebalancing.  It's very important, because the Asia Pacific region is one of the ones that is going to dominate our economic and political future.  And we have to be there. 

            And for 70 years, we've been the pivotal military power in the Pacific.  We've kept peace and prosperity going over there.  And that's a good thing.  We want to keep a good thing going.  So we intend to remain the pivotal power in the East Asia Pacific region. 

            What does that tell you?  We're going to need the Navy.  And we're going to need it present there, also. 

            Finally, we have to keep investing in the future.  President Obama last winter, when we were writing the strategy, kept saying to us, don't you take any of the new things out of your budget, no matter what else you do.  He was worried that the most -- the newest things have the shallowest roots and so would be easiest to pull up.  He said that'll be the easiest way for you to deal with the nation's fiscal deficit, and that isn't what I want you to do. 

            And that makes a lot of sense.  He wanted to make sure that we continued to invest in the future.  But what does that mean?  It means cyber.  It means electronic warfare.  It means special forces.  It means unmanned vehicles.  It means many things. 

            But for the Navy, it means the new Ford class carrier, which many of you may serve on one day, maritime patrol aircraft, our new P-8s, the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance capability, the Global Hawks, the unmanned vehicle, the Virginia-class submarines and the Virginia payload module that goes with it, a whole new generation of tactical aircraft, as you know, a lot of forward deployment in the East Asia theater, whether it be Australia, Singapore, or so forth.  So we are continuing to invest in the future so that we are anywhere in the world for any purpose always militarily -- the firstest with the mostest -- and that requires keeping our eyes focused on the future. 

            All of this is necessary, but not sufficient.  None of it -- what makes our military the greatest in the world isn't that.  It isn't our strategy, and it isn't our technology.  It's our people.  It's our people.  That is what is unmatched anywhere in the world, the quality of people just like you who make it all worth it. 

            Now, that takes me back to the beginning and to appreciation of what you do, and I hope you appreciate yourselves.  You're playing a big part in history.  Every time you prepare a jet to take off, every time you face muster and come up above this deck, every action you take to keep this ship moving forward, it's you, it's you that matters most. 

            And you are part of a long, long line of naval history that's carried our nation through every decisive moment of its history, and as far into the future as I can see, that's going to stay true.  And so for that, I'm very grateful to each and every one of you.  (Applause.) 

            You're all wonderful, but I now have the privilege of recognizing a few of you who have shown exceptional performance on the job, and it's a great privilege for me to participate in the honoring of these marvelous sailors. 

            REAR ADMIRAL MICHAEL MANAZIR:  Thanks, Mr. Secretary.  Your remarks were perfect.  

            Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to take some of the dust off the overhead and give him a real five-star huge round of applause.  (Applause.)  There you go.  Come on now.  (Applause.) 

            Mr. Secretary, as you've alluded to, you can tell how tough it is, but the chain of command here in Carrier Strike Group Eight has selected 28 sailors, one from each unit in Carrier Strike Group Eight, with a chance to come up and shake your hand, sir, and tell them your appreciation or their appreciation of your presence here.

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