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American Forces Press Service

Carter Fields Questions During Televised Global Troop Talk

By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 1, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter crossed continents and engaged with the services via television and across social media platforms today in an unprecedented live, worldwide troop talk from a Defense Media Activity studio at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Carter emphasized that people, in tandem with technology, are critical to the United States keeping its edge as the Defense Department looks to frontiers including hypersonics, biotechnology and cyberspace as part of the “Force of the Future” landscape.

“Our planes, ships and tanks, in order to function effectively, require networking,” Carter said. “The biotech revolution is going to be even more consequential than the information revolution.”

But Carter acknowledged that like all other technological revolutions, the harvest could be used for good or for ill. “We want to make sure it’s used for good, and we want to make sure that we’re the best at combating any use of it for ill,” the secretary said.

Readiness, Employment, Training

On the heels of recent travels that included meeting with service members in Illinois, Nevada and California, Carter emphasized taking the utmost care in matters of troop readiness, employment and training.

He commended service members at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, for their performance in training to counter high-end threats and to leverage new technologies with air and amphibious operations. “We’re refocusing on full-spectrum conflict and the whole range of emergencies,” he said.

Building Bridges

Carter also visited Silicon Valley on his trip. During his troop talk, he related the importance of building bridges between industry and the “small slice of society” who serve” in the military apply technology to warfare.

Aligning DoD goals with new generations and thought processes is critical, the secretary maintained, noting a new era of family, mobility, home life, learning, training and transition that service members face. The force of the future must use the best of new techniques while thinking and self-challenging to build the most capable, competent team for the nation’s defense in the years to come, he added.

Carter also responded to questions regarding the fate of military pay.

“We can’t pay you enough for what we ask you to do,” he said. “In addition to paying you more, I want to make sure you’re fully trained … I want to make sure you have the best equipment, … and I want to make sure there are enough of you … to carry us to victory.”

The secretary noted the necessity of a fixed budget to meet defense needs without paring military families’ income.

“There’s never a single discussion of cutting people’s pay, but we are discussing changing the rate at which pay is increased annually,” Carter said, adding that this scenario is a reality he does not like. “I’m not going to change the game on anybody who signed up with a given understanding about retirement,” he said.

Asia-Pacific Challenges

Carter recognized ongoing challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, where the Defense Department has focused attention in recent years and where he said U.S. forces must remain ready to “fight tonight.”

“Since 1953, American troops have been deterring North Korean aggression,” Carter said. “It’s probably the single place on the world where war could erupt at the snap of our fingers.”

The secretary also fielded questions from the studio audience, including a query from a soldier who asked about the possibility of a policy throughout the Defense Department for maternity leave, citing recent Navy leave enhancements for families.

“This gets back to making family life compatible with military life,” Carter said, calling it an important consideration. “I don’t want you to have to choose between your family and serving us.”

Carter also spoke with an Air Force senior airman at Thule Air Base, Greenland, who asked about DoD’s capability intentions there. The secretary noted the base’s critical capability for early detection of ballistic missile attacks against the United States and the need to keep its radars modern, sensitive and ready. “[Thule] is one of the places that ballistic missiles would overfly if they were en route to the United States,” he pointed out.

Widest Possible Pool of Talent

The secretary next responded to a soldier in Kuwait who asked him about the significance of two women graduating last week from Army Ranger School.

“That’s a big deal for anybody -- male or female -- to get through Ranger school,” Carter replied. “What matters most is who is qualified, and who can meet the rigorous standards of service. I want to have the widest possible pool of people into which we can draw the force of the future.”

Carter emphasized that he plans to cast a wider net in selecting the best candidates who can meet specific service standards. “It’s important at all ranks,” he added. “There’s a huge benefit to it.”

Carter also addressed defeating terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, telling his worldwide audience that it requires an inside-out approach in a battle of “civilization against barbarity.”

“The trick is to defeat ISIL in a lasting way,” Carter said. “Our strategic approach … is to enable capable and motivated ground forces that are local and can keep the peace after we’ve helped them win the peace,” he said.

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