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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter April 24, 2015

Media Availability with Secretary Carter Enroute to Washington, DC

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: It was a great trip and thank you for coming.

The focus was my determination to renew the longstanding partnership between the United States Department of Defense and the amazing, innovative capability of Silicon Valley. And across the board, not just tech and silicon, but there's a lot going on out there, in energy, in social media and talent management and lots of fields that matter across our technology base.

The -- I had a -- I think since I spoke to you all last (inaudible) at Stanford, I went to Facebook and met with Sheryl Sandberg, a longtime admired friend and colleague of mine who's extremely thoughtful about the role of social media in society, ways that we can use social media at the department to keep our commanders in touch with the troops, keep the families in touch with one another during deployments, and to create communities of interest across our vast force that connect all of our people together.

Women in the military, issues where she's been a leader and also talking to the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, about the same thing, social media and its role. And with both of them and some of the senior executives at Facebook who are veterans talked about another one of the themes of my visit out there, which is creating a two-way street between innovative talent in the private sector, and our need for innovative talent in the Department of Defense, not just the military, but the civilian part as well.

And on that subject, we have a personnel system in the department which doesn't always offer young and talented people the flexibility they need in terms of their careers. They like to -- they like choice. They like openness. They like to move around. And therefore the ability to come in and come out, particularly in these highly technical areas, is really important.

And so as you know, we're creating some, what I call, tunnels through the wall, between the Department of Defense and (in audible) the department -- these and other initiatives we're trying out; we're going to see how it works. That's the way you do things in today's world. We're going to see how it works and then scale it up if it does work. And I'm just determined that we drill the holes in the walls that have developed between our two domains.

I find people out there very eager to contribute. They care about national security, but they have their own style of operating in it (inaudible). We need to be compatible with that.

We also obviously talked about technology management, not only how to do R&D in a globalized and commercialized technology world, but how to make sure that R&D results into products. That's an issue for us in the Defense Department.

It's an everyday problem for the tech industry, where ideas are one thing; commercialization is another. So we have a common set of issues in that regard.

So there's talent management, good conduct of R&D and what the technological frontiers are, and our eagerness to work together, because the Defense Department has such a broad spectrum of technology to use, and transitioning from ideas and technology development into actual deployed systems in our case. All those were subjects of discussion.

This morning I met with the, what I regard, as one of the most forward thinking venture firms, Andreesen Horowitz. Both Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz are friends of mine, and have been two of the leaders in the valley in trying most to build a bridge between Silicon Valley and Washington. I respect that tremendously.

Then (inaudible) some CEOs and their portfolio companies, which can cover a wide range of technologies from IT type things to energy companies, and this morning I got a chance to talk with them and hear from them. This is obviously a world that I know well from my previous life and actually lived in until a few months ago.

So it is a world that, while I know it, I think a bunch of our future as the finest fighting force in the world will depend upon our ability to have good talented people, number one, and number two, the best technology for defense in the world. So I'm sure there'll be more trips and more innovation by us. That is innovation is how we continue to be a technology leader as the Defense Department has been for decades.

We have some fantastic veterans out there. And it's really heartening. And I hear this again and again and again. It's really gotten through American business, including the tech businesses, that our people are great to hire, because they have great leadership skills. They have great organizational skills. They have tremendous experience. They've been (inaudible) and organized and they've just been terrific employees.

And Facebook for example had a number of them veterans there, and at the Andreesen Horowitz event was a guy who's a veteran of ours, who's very active in the valley, depending on the weather, is involved in (inaudible). So I always say that people are the important reason why we have the finest fighting force the world has ever known. And the second reason is we have the best technology, and you can't take that for granted. It's not a birthright in America, and the Defense Department don't have a monopoly in technology like we did decades ago when I began my career (inaudible).

We have to do things differently, but we can continue to be as effective, and I'm determined that we'll do that. And that was the reason for the trip, so I thank you all for coming and I appreciate it.

Q: Thank you for taking us.

STAFF: (off-mic)

Q: Sure. I wanted to ask you a little bit about that drone issue that's come up in the last couple of days. Two years ago, as you probably know, because you were at the Defense Department back then, the president talked a bit about shifting some of the responsibilities of the drone program back to the military. There were a number of people who opposed it. Hasn't really gotten very far.

I'm wondering, do you think that idea is dead at this point? Should it be? Should it not be? Do you think what happened this week adds fuel to the debates?

SEC. CARTER: I think the president was trying to do something that he believes in deeply, and I think rightly so, which is to be as transparent as possible about an operation that had a tragically unintended consequence, and to -- and I think that in the same moment was expressing the extreme care with which the government goes about doing this. I can't give away the details of how it's done and that kind of thing, but I think the care and deliberation that goes into that kind of action by our government and our willingness to be as open as is consistent with being effective and protective (inaudible). Those are the two principles that are reflected in the president's statement about what was otherwise a sad circumstance.

Q: Do you think the military should play a bigger role? Or do you (inaudible) this debate rolls on?

SEC. CARTER: I think that we are always reviewing and considering how we conduct operations of all kinds like this, and I think that, you know, what we do going forward will be reflective of what the president said yesterday about the two things I said, which is openness as much as possible and utmost care.

Q: I want to turn to Yemen for a second. First of all, we had these ships turning around. We've heard from the Pentagon that is a sign of -- hopefully a sign of de-escalation. Do you get a sense that the ships are going to go all the way (inaudible)? What kind of communication have you had with (inaudible) or indirectly from Iran about what's going to happen with these ships? And do you think that it's partly because you brought out the carrier that these ships turned around?

SEC. CARTER: The ships have turned around. I can certainly repeat that. We've said that. Obviously what there onward plans are, we don't know. It is a welcome event, because it does contribute to de-escalation, and that's what we're trying to suggest to all of the parties there is the best course, and those parties include the Iranians.

We are in touch with them through diplomatic channels, and urging that in the same way we're urging all the other parties, let's de-escalate here. Let's take care of people who were brought up in this terrible circumstance of civil strife, and we're going to continue to do what we're doing, which is to urge that, and also to support the Saudis in the defense of their own territory, and -- but I think this is -- this is a good sign of de-escalation (inaudible).

Q: On the Saudi bombing, which are continuing, what are you -- is the U.S. concerned that those bombings are -- could delay the peace process? Or do you think that -- where do you see the peace process going? It's very confusing to a lot of us watching these bombings in a sense of whether anything actually might happen.

SEC. CARTER: I think the peace process consists of a U.N.-convened talks with all the parties. That's what we're trying to accomplish, and I think that's what the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is trying to arrange. The United States is completely supportive (inaudible). That's the (inaudible). Back down and arrest what is a terrible humanitarian (inaudible). Many people don't deserve this.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does it make a difference which agency in the government is responsible for conducting the drone campaign overseas, whether it's the military or any other agency? And as you go forward and decide how the balance should be struck, will there be any change in the way it's conducted?

SEC. CARTER: I always say what I said before, which is we're constantly reviewing. The president is you can see. He wouldn't have said what he said if he didn't have a direct involvement in making sure that we, as a government, conduct operations like this with the greatest care and the greatest deliberation, and he couldn't say it better than that.

Q: So you think that care and deliberation would be exercised, whether it's the Defense Department or any other agency that might be involved.

SEC. CARTER: It'll be care and deliberation, and I think the president made it pretty clear that he's committed to that going forward, and I think everybody understands that's the right thing to do.


Q: Mr. Secretary on..

STAFF: Last one here.

Q: Quick thing on (inaudible) question. Just -- you gave some ship movements there. Do you think the ship movements, the Navy movement that you made in that region contributed to the Iranian decision to...


SEC. CARTER: I can't say that. Remember, we're moving ships around for many reasons, and make transits through the Horn as a regular basis. The aircraft carrier in question has other missions, including the fight against ISIL, and -- but I can't -- I don't know what the reason is or -- but I just, again, it's a good sign because it de-escalates things.

Q: You think it does? Do you really think it's de-escalating, even though the air strikes -- I mean, is the U.S. concerned that the air strikes are..


SEC. CARTER: I meant the step with the Iranian ship moving is welcome because it contributes to de-escalation.

STAFF: Thanks very much, everyone.

Q: Thank you for having us.

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