U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
|Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter||August 26, 2015|
(Edited for Clarity)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Okay. Got it.
Hi gang. How are you?
STAFF: We've got about, I hope, about 10 minutes or so, so I've got to watch the clock, so get -- (inaudible).
SEC. CARTER: Let's not waste any time, and then we'll get right to the questions. I don't need to repeat what I said here.
I mean, obviously, this place is spectacular and represents full spectrum, and represents technology, and lots of excellent people and so forth. But let me just go right ahead and take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the other day you talked to us a little bit about your concerns about Turkey. The agreement apparently doesn't address one of your main concerns, which is their policing of the border. I'm wondering if there are currently ongoing talks on that, and what part of that doesn't creating a safe zone play if at all, and what are your thoughts on it?
SEC. CARTER: Okay. Good -- good question. Two things.
This agreement that you're referring to is that Turkey will join the ATO, which is an important step. To get to the rest of your question, we're also looking to Turkey to work on control of its border. And that's something we are discussing further with them, and we'd like to see efforts by them, and by the way, others as well around the world to control the flow of foreign fighters, which is an important of the campaign against ISIL.
You specifically asked about a segment of the border, and let me just remind you that that is a piece, an important piece of the border because it is one that is not secured on the Syrian side in the way that if you go a little further east, you have the Kurds securing. So it's important segment, but it's just a segment of a very long border, all of which one needs to be concerned about because of the possibility of fighters and logistics and so forth going back and forth.
Q: Mr. Secretary.
Q: Do you believe that you've been getting intelligence that's slanted to make the ISIL fight look like it's going better than it is? There's an I.G. investigation.
SEC. CARTER: I can't speak --
Q: Have you seen that?
SEC. CARTER: -- to that specific report. And of course, we have an inspector general exactly to investigate things like that. And I respect that role. And we have a very excellent inspector general. So I don't want to get out in front of any particular kind of investigation.
I, myself, have tried to be very candid throughout about my own assessments of the counter-ISIL campaign. And I, therefore, spent a lot of time making sure that I'm well-informed. And I also expect candor on the part of everybody else in the department.
That's the only way we can know what we're doing, how we're doing, and when. So I expect that candor not just from the intelligence community, but everybody in the department, and I know that I try to be candid myself in making my own assessments.
Q: Have you heard or felt any type of pressuring, or any kind of complaints of anything like this?
SEC. CARTER: No. again, when I say no, I mean I can't speak to this particular thing at all. And the inspector general will deal with it.
I make a tremendous effort myself to remain well-informed and to convey to everybody battlefield commanders or intelligence and our diplomatic corps and everyone else that we, starting with the president, but all of us, need to the most candid information and the most accurate information in order to make the kind of decisions that will lead most rapidly to victory.
So I expect that of everyone in the department.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Keith Rogers.
SEC. CARTER: I gathered to thank you we appreciate the support of the community. We don't take it for granted.
How do you plan to address the RPA pilot staffing issues, given that contractors began flying this month at Creech? And will these contractors ever conduct airstrikes?
SEC. CARTER: First of all, can't be said enough how grateful we all need to be to the people who have been flying these RPAs all these years now. We've worked them exceedingly hard. And that is why we need to manage the workforce in a careful way.
Now to get the specifics of your question, we are changing the mix of the fleet. And that's in part a effort to address the workload issue, which is so important, and also to improve the capacity overall.
So let me give you a few specifics there. In addition to the Air Force, MQ-1s and MQ-9s, we will be flying the Army analog, which is the Gray Eagle, and this is your point, having government-owned and contractor-operated MQ-1s and MQ-9s that are only doing the ISR role and are not flying armed.
Q: (off mic) Mr. Secretary, there a report today about perhaps the number three ISIS guy hit. Without getting into confirmation of that bit, can you talk generally about your ability or the Pentagon's ability to go after some of these high-value, high leadership parties in ISIS? We've seen more of them recently.
SEC. CARTER: Sure, yeah.
Q: What does it mean, and how does --
SEC. CARTER: I can't -- and you know, you're absolutely right, in this particular strike or any particular strike Gordon, but the fact that we do this, that we are routinely successful at removing terrorists from the battlefield, shows that you cannot escape the long arm of the United States. And if you harm Americans and harm American interests, we are capable of reaching out and taking you out, and we have done that, and we continue to be dedicated to protecting ourselves.
It's also a reminder, Gordon, that important and immensely capable as our air campaign is and how it's conducted, and you see some of the kinds of people and some of the capabilities right here at Nellis that contribute to that, and important as it is for us to continue to strive to train and equip and enable a local ground forces, this is a multi-pronged campaign, and it involves, as I mentioned earlier, stemming the ebb and flow of foreign fighters, but there's also a messaging battlefield here.
And so it's important that we pay attention to all the dimensions of this conflict. And I think that's also significant, this conflict.
STAFF: Last one.
Q: Looking ahead to Silicon Valley, you saw a pretty sophisticated secure phishing attack that took out the joint staff's email for about two weeks.
SEC. CARTER: Mm-hmm.
Q: Given that there's been some data breaches as well, can you talk a little bit about you know, are the types of attacks that you're seeing more sophisticated, and are you going to Silicon Valley to ask them about their lessons learned dealing with such attacks?
SEC. CARTER: Well, that's one reason I'm going. I'll come back to that. But you ask about the intrusion. That is evidence that we're not doing as well as we need to do in job one in cyber, which is defending our own networks because, and we see this here today, and the general knows this, that our military is empowered by and also dependent upon networks for its effective operation. So we have to be good.
And I would say we have to be better at network defense than we are now. That is why we're putting such -- and I put such emphasis on cyber defense and also why we're building a cyber force. We'll continue to build and diversify that cyber force. And even in the face of budget uncertainty and the possibility of sequestration and so forth, that is a piece of our budget that we will continue to support. It has that much priority.
Now, the second part of your question is -- I'm going to Silicon Valley for that and a number of reasons. And just to take the other part of it, there's also a people part to it, where my force of the future part. Because I'm trying there and elsewhere in technology hubs around the country to encourage interest in our mission in a back and forth of people so that our people have the benefit of getting to know the technology and the culture and the business practices and so forth of the commercial sector and we draw the commercial sector into the great mission of helping us protect the country.
And the last thing I'd say is cyber is one area of technology. There are actually other areas of technology in Silicon Valley. And of course, Silicon Valley is just one of the technology hubs around our country. So I'll also meet with the Defense Science Board, which does studies on yes, cyber, but a whole host of other issues as well.
So there are a number of technological frontiers which are going to be important to national defense going forward. And we have to be at the forefront of all of it in order to continue to be the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
Q: I know you have to run.
STAFF: We've got to go and not miss our plane.
Q: Just one quick thing. You mentioned that you're going to a few different places to reach out to these tech communities. Is there any specifics you can give on that?
SEC. CARTER: There will be plenty of specifics when I get there, but I'm going to let Peter tell you.
STAFF: We've got to run. We're going to be in trouble, we're going to miss our plane, and that's important. You guys don't want to miss the plane.
SEC. CARTER: Appreciate. Thank you again. And tell your -- we don't take for granted community support. We really appreciate it.
Q: I will tell them.
Q: What's your number one bucket list item, congressional funding?
SEC. CARTER: A multi-year budget horizon and the passage of an appropriations bill before the current one expires. It's a pretty minimal ask, but believe it or not, I have to ask for that.
Q: Okay, thank you so much.
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