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American Forces Press Service

Carter Calls for 'Full-Court Press' on Security Challenges

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter called for a "full-court press" within government to tackle the pressing national security issues of the day.

Carter spoke today at the State Department's Global Chiefs of Mission Conference. He is the first defense secretary to address the conference.

Carter called on Congress to put money into the effort. "We can't just theorize and strategize," he said. "We have to invest in the whole-of-government way."

Sequestration Would Harm Defense, Partner Agencies

The secretary said he and other military leaders "have been vocal and specific about the damage that sequestration-level budgets would inflict on the need to restore readiness, on badly needed technological modernization, and on keeping faith with troops and their families.

"And I want to emphasize that current proposals to shoe-horn DoD's base budget funds into our contingency accounts would fail to solve the problem, while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible long-term planning," Carter said.

And, as the defense secretary, Carter said he cannot ignore cuts in partner agencies such as State, Homeland Security and Treasury.

"I cannot be indifferent to the vital national security responsibilities across our government, just as I cannot be indifferent to my own at DoD," he said.

'Whole-of-Government' Approach

The secretary stressed that most of the national security issues facing America require resources from a number of different agencies working together. Diplomatic, economic, information and military aspects must be fully integrated for U.S. policies to succeed, he said. Cuts in the State Department budget, for example, affect the Defense Department and vice versa, Carter added.

In recent years, many have been calling for "whole-of-government" approaches to world problems. They also talk about "smart power" -- meaning using more than just the military to effect change. These terms, Carter said, are relatively new, but the basic concept has "been around from Sung China to the Holy Roman Empire -- the idea of leveraging all resources of state is an enduring principle of strategy and statecraft."

The United States used the whole-of-government approach in crafting and executing the Marshall Plan after World War II, Carter said. That plan, he added, laid the foundation for the Common Market and now the European Union.

Interagency Operations Vital

But harnessing the power of the government has not always been easy, Carter said. Since World War II, State and Defense have often been working at cross purposes, he said, but that has changed.

"We work with a generation of national-security professionals in both agencies, who are actually steeped in interagency cooperation," the secretary said. "Most of today's senior officials cut their teeth in the multidimensional policy challenges we faced in Haiti and the Balkans in the 1990s, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and against terror brought even closer interagency cooperation."

Carter noted that then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates testified before Congress in 2010 in support of the State Department's budget request, and he has done the same.

"Senior Defense Department officials have become some of the most vocal constituents for greater civilian involvement not just in conflict zones but … also in what I have called 'preventive defense,' or the influencing of the strategic environment to prevent and deter conflict in the first place," he said.

Military personnel also recognize that ensuring victory requires much more than guns and steel, the secretary said.

"In conflict zones, it requires good governance, reconciliation, education and the rule of law," he said. "And in addressing the wider catalog of strategic challenges, it requires marrying the threat of force with financial and diplomatic leverage."

Coalition 'Putting ISIL on the Defensive'

Operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are a case in point, Carter said. "Today, our global coalition's military campaign is putting ISIL on the defensive," he said. "Just yesterday [in Iraq] the coalition that many of you in this room have built began conducting airstrikes around Tikrit. But we know that lasting defeat of ISIL requires an integrated campaign with equally potent political and economic maneuvers."

A lasting defeat of ISIL, he said, requires DoD to work closely with the State Department to support the government of Iraq and the nascent Syrian opposition, and to assemble and then fully leverage the commitment and resources of a vast coalition. It also requires the U.S. Agency for International Development to work closely with regional and global partners, as refugees continue flowing into Jordan and Turkey, he added.

Defeating ISIL requires the U.S. Treasury to choke off the terror group's resources, "while Homeland Security, the intelligence community and law enforcement together keep watch on our borders" and deter attacks on the United States and its friends and allies, Carter said.

Unified Approach Needed for Diverse Challenges

The same whole-of-government effort is needed against Iran's nuclear program, he said, and against Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and continued operations inside Eastern Ukraine.

A full-court press also is needed in the aftermath of disasters, he said. "We've worked across our government, demonstrating that in an hour of need, the United States shows up for our closest allies and friends," Carter said.

The secretary pointed to the U.S. response to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor accident in Japan as an example. "This effort powerfully reinforced the U.S.-Japan alliance, demonstrating to Japanese citizens just how deep and broad that alliance really is," he said.

Securing cyberspace requires the efforts of many U.S. agencies and international partners, Carter said. DoD is working with the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security on protecting this new domain. The State Department is leading an effort to build international agreements on norms of state conduct in cyber space, he said.

"To pack the fullest strategic punch, we need to do a better job developing joint strategies and pooling our resources to execute them," Carter said to the State Department audience. "We need to adequately fund and empower your mission as our nation's top envoys."

Those in national security, the secretary said, need to "think big and anew, even re-imagining the future of our national security machinery to address classic strategic challenges, such as those in Asia, alongside campaigns that we're conducting in the Middle East, while also tackling transnational challenges like global health security and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The full-court press needs to be applied not only to challenges, but to opportunities as well, he said.

"We need to put a whole-of-government muscle not only behind our challenges, but also behind our beckoning opportunities, from strengthening and modernizing our longstanding alliances to advancing our shared prosperity through new trade agreements with Europe and Asia, to building new partnerships with rising powers like India," Carter said.

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