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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter November 06, 2015

Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Thanks. Thanks and good morning. And I want to also welcome to his command and commend him, Admiral Harris. The president I had a clear choice when we wanted to choose the next PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] commander. It was Admiral Harris, and he's already doing an excellent job.

Harry, appreciate it.

Look, good morning everybody. You look so magnificent. And the first thing I want to say you how proud I am of you, and how proud our country is of you. I've been around the region now for several days and met a lot of important people, people from 13 countries, but the most important people to me are you. And I want you to know, and I want your families to know, particularly on the eve of Veterans Day, how much we value you, how much we appreciate what you do. You're what I wake up to every morning. You're what I go to bed for every night. You're what I'm thinking about all of the time.

And our people enjoy, in the large, peace and security and they do that, and they know they're able to do that because of you. Because you're protecting them, keeping the peace today and making a better life for our children, and so they know that, and they appreciate it. For me and the leadership of the Department of Defense (DoD) and everybody really I think in the United States, I can say, thank you. We appreciate it. Please make sure your families know that.

And the second thing I want you to know is the importance of what you're doing. And, Admiral Harris referred to it. It goes by the word 'rebalance,' but the background of it is this. This is the part of the world where half of humanity lives. It's the part of the world where half of the world's economy is, and therefore it is the single part of the world that will be most consequential for America's future.

Now you notice it's not in the headlines all of the time, like the way the Middle East is, and Eastern Europe is. That's a good thing. Why is that? Why is it that -- that this place has enjoyed such peace and stability for 70 years now. Why over those 70 -- there's no NATO here. There's nothing to heal the wounds of the past. There's nothing that automatically keeps everybody together over here in this region. The single most important factor that has kept the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for decades is the pivotal role of American military power. That's the role you play today.

And what the rebalance means is we intend to do that going forward. That's for the benefit of everyone. Because the U.S. philosophy out here is one of inclusion. It's always been our practice. Bring people in, get them working together, working towards a common purpose. Keep your eye on the ball, which is peace and security, because that's the only environment in which people can rise and prosper. And look what's happened out here. Japan rose and prospered from the ashes of World War II. Then Taiwan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, now China and India. They're able to do that, to follow their own destiny, dream their own dreams, live their own lives, because of the environment of peace and stability, and that has been a very important measure underwritten by the role the United States. We intend to keep that going.

That in a sentence is the rebalancing. You, right here, are the heart of that. So you're playing a role in history that you'll look back on later in your lives and recognize and be able to tell your children the value of.

The -- this is the week before Veterans Day, and you're not veterans yet, but you will be, and this is the week when we remember all of our veterans, and I just wanted to say something about that. We remember them and we honor those that are still with us, and we honor those who passed away, all of them. That's why I was at the Punchbowl yesterday to remember them, to honor them. I was at defense POW/MIA [prisoner of war/missing in action] Accounting Agency headquarters here yesterday, where such fine work is done, such careful work, such painstaking work, such caring work. Why do we do that? Because we never leave anybody behind, no matter how long ago it was.

Seventy years ago, I said, World War II ended and we began this important rollout here, well, 70 seven years ago a plane crashed in Malaysia, and I was honored in Malaysia to honor those remains as they embarked from Malaysia, and then I had the opportunity to see them yesterday here in Honolulu. So with -- after some work is done to ascertain who the victims of that crash were, there families can be informed, and they did have some closure. That's what we owe to every service member lost in a war. And even though that was a long time ago our honor of them never ends. And so the mission of honoring our veterans will never ever end. And that's the thing that we'll remember next Wednesday, and I hope you all take a little time from your busy schedules next week, and just take a moment to reflect on all those on whose shoulders you stand over the years of history out here to keep the peace and make a better life for our children.

So thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Now I'm going to have some time to take questions from you. It can be a question. It can be a comment, something you think I ought to know, whatever you want to say.

I think there's a couple of mic right there, and just step forward and tell me what's on your mind.


Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. My name is Sergeant Murray with 3rd Marine Regiment.

And, Mr. Secretary, my question is related to the Chinese, how their increasing their numbers and how that's going to affect the military budget, sir?

SEC. CARTER: Sure. The question was about China and how it'll be reflected in the military budget. Well, China is a growing military power in this region. That's natural. It's a big country. It's a country that's trying to develop itself economically.

It's not the only one. Japan is increasing its defense rollout here, so is India. Many, many countries are asking us to work with them, because they want to be part of this regional architecture that keeps the peace, and we welcome all of them to include China. Let me just emphasize, our policy with respect to this region is not one to divide, or exclude or keep out China or anybody else; our policy is one of inclusion.

Now there is no question we have some points of contention with China, so objections to things they're doing. We, as many countries out here, are concerned about their activities in the South China Sea. We've called on China and others who are doing things in the South China Sea, reclaiming land, militarizing features, to halt that permanently, all of them. We think everybody ought to just stop that, and that these are things to be resolved diplomatically.

I've certainly said, and will continue to demonstrate, that for our part, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law permits -- South China Sea to the Arctic -- that's not going to change.

And with respect to the reflection of the budget, you know, we do reflect in our budget all of the possible military situations that we could encounter, and there are some out here in the Pacific, which was mentioned, and we'd definitely keep an eye on China, and we take specific actions to make sure that we stay ahead of Chinese military capabilities, and we intend to do so. We're determined to do so. That's built into our budget, just get to what the questioner asked. But don't forget there's North Korea out here, that Russia sadly, after a quarter century, after the Cold War, of settling down relatively, has taken some actions that are very aggressive and concerning to both of us and others.

And then of course we have ISIL, which we have to defeat, and we will defeat. It's an evil movement, has to be defeated, will be defeated. So we've got our hands full. We've got a lot to do, and that's why we need the budget to do it.

And one last note -- I'm giving you a long answer here, but it's kind of a long story unfortunately; complicated world.

One little good piece of news recently is, you know, I've been asking, calling for months and months, could Washington please come together over the budget, stop the gridlock, and just in the last week it seems that there's been a deal made with the Congress and the president regarding the budget going forward. That's the way things ought to be done. So I'm very hopeful about this. This is exactly what the country needs. We need to rise above division and come together behind a path forward for the country. And that at last seems to be happening, and so I -- that, to me, as your secretary of defense, and as a citizen, is very welcome.

Q: Good morning, sir. Lieutenant Commander Lance Tinson from Coast Guard District 14.

Mr. Secretary, the Coast Guard and the Navy have established a very strong working relationship regarding countering illegal foreign fishing in the Pacific as part of the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative. Given the presidential task force on combating illegal fishing, do you foresee an increase in collaboration or coordination between the Coast Guard and DoD forces in the Pacific to fight this problem set, sir?

SEC. CARTER: The question was about collaboration between the Navy and the Coast Guard, and whether it's going to increase. Absolutely will. In fact that's something I've just observed over the years, is it used to be the Coast Guard sort of stood apart from the Department of Defense. It is in a separate cabinet agency, but we have, you know, strongly, mutually reinforcing capabilities, and I've seen that cooperation only grow.

I'm going to see tomorrow, I guess, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who is a DoD guy, was our general counsel. I probably shouldn't say that. So he knows -- that's not to say he's -- but he knows us well, and he knows the potential.

And you mentioned fisheries. That's a very important issue. By the way, I'm the big 'Deadliest Catch' guy. I don't know how many people are 'Deadliest Catch' people, but that's another story.

But fisheries is one. Human trafficking is another. Smuggling, drugs, I mean, you name it, these are all areas that really are of national security concern. The Arctic, brand-new focus of strategic attention, not just by us but others. We're counting on the Coast Guard up there. They have amazing capability, including icebreakers and other things. So -- the whole is greater than the sum of the parts we work together, and I think you'll see more that. The country needs that can kind of work together.

Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I'm Staff Sergeant (inaudible), 324th Intelligence Squadron.

Sir, my question is, is maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea the responsibility the United States or its regional partners?

SEC. CARTER: Well, certainly a responsibility of the United States. It's certainly a practice of the United States, but we -- the principal freedom of navigation is what it says, which is everybody should enjoy freedom -- that's freedom of navigation. So yes, our regional partners, too, should exercise freedom of -- that's the whole point.

I was in the Strait of Malacca a few months ago. That's an amazing thing if you ever get a chance to see it. You just see ship after ship after ship after ship lining up coming through one waterway. That's -- these are the arteries of the world. It's been like that for hundreds of years, the United States has stood for freedom of navigation, upheld freedom of navigation.

And it's is not just the South China Sea. It's a global thing. So I think everybody who is -- who lives around the Pacific like us thinks about it. They'll recognize that it's really -- it's not just a Pacific thing or a South China thing -- South China Sea thing; it's a global thing. So freedom of navigation is critical to the world's commerce, and therefore to keeping the world peaceful and prosperous. We're going to continue to stand strong for that, and we would like others to do, and they are. Other countries, other friends and allies do exactly the same thing.

Q: Mr. Secretary, sir. My name is Wyatt T. Jenkins from COMSUBPAC [Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet].

SEC. CARTER: I'm having real trouble hearing so I'm going to go listen to him and then I'll repeat his question.

Q: My question is regarding sequestration. Currently most of the cuts made to the Pentagon have been nonstrategic. What cuts would be made to the military as a whole on the strategic side if cuts were to be made? Particularly those to the submarine force. There has been plans for new submarines to be rolling out in 2025. They were -- the plans were approved, but the budget hasn't been allocated for the new submarine force that's rolling out.

SEC. CARTER: The question was about strategic impact of sequester, and particular reference to the submarine force. Excellent question.

With respect to the general impact of sequestration, you are right. I think you said it didn't have strategic impact so far. You know, as secretary defense I always -- I would like to have more, I have to admit, but you're right, we try to make adjustments to our budget in such a way that we have the least strategic impact possible. That's why we're trying to balance all of the ingredients of the budget, from investment to O&M [operations and maintenance] to compensation, and all the different -- infrastructures. We have tried to eliminate things that are least important to the war fighting capability, tail not tooth. Sometimes that's difficult, and I have to say that there are times when we are not permitted to make adjustments that we have put in -- recommending the president, put in the budget and Congress has denied them because they're worried about the impacts in their particular regions and so forth.

And you know, that -- in addition to appealing to people to come together behind an overall budget, I really am constantly asking Congress -- I'll see some members of Congress tomorrow -- could you please approve the budget we submit? We think carefully about these things.

So in the Navy, the Navy tries to decide what is most important, recognize that we're never to get all the money we want. We're only going to get the money we need, and that we need to use it wisely, but we need to get approval for the judgments that we in the department -- our professionals in the Department of the Navy make, the recommendations they make to me, and I make to the president.

With respect to the subsurface force, that is one that we -- is highly strategic, and therefore it is receiving priority in our budget. It's a place where the United States has an unrivaled dominance, and we want to keep it that way. It's a huge strength for America, our undersea capabilities. Their excellent. They exceed those of anybody else now, and we want to keep it that way, and so we're gong to keep investing in them.

I do -- I do. If you don't mind. Sorry, I know she wanted to ask one. I've been giving a lot longer answers than I should so it's only fair.

Q: Yes, good morning, Mr. Secretary.

Tech Sergeant Livingston. I work on Ford Island for DISA-PAC [Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific Command]..

And my question is, is there going to be a rebalancing of military effort in different locations due to the amount of fires that we're kind of working with in Europe right now, as far as border control is going, as far as the Ukraine is ramping (inaudible), and those kind of things. Is their going to be a rebalancing of military efforts as far as realigning where we're bulking up?

SEC. CARTER: Well, you know, we are we are making some adjustments in Europe, but they're not at the expense of the rebalance out here. We're serious about this. We're steady about this. I said half of humanity. Half of the world's economic activity, a big part of the American future, and even though, thank goodness, it's not on fire, you have to remember any moment things could -- look at the Korean Peninsula. I was at the DMZ [demilitarized zone] a few days ago. We talk about the capability to fight tonight. We hope never to have to do that, but we have to be ready to do that every day, has been away for 50 years, 60 years.

So you can't take for granted what we have out here, and so we're determined to stick with it.

At the same time we are making some adjustments in Europe to recognize the fact that Russia is not taking the course that we hoped it would, and that it looked like...


SEC. CARTER: Now we're our not to re-create what we had with the Cold War in, in terms of capability in Europe, because that's that's not the right playbook for the kind of activity the Russians -- they have asymmetrical, hybrid, cyber, little green men, this kind of thing that you saw in Crimea and Ukraine, and so it's a different kind of capability. The Europeans are asking for it. NATO is asking for it. And we're going to provide it. But we're going to stick with the rebalance. It is a very important.

And to just to end up once again, thank you, because you are the rebalance. It's you guys. You're here right now at a hinge of history, and we appreciate it, honor you. Have a wonderful Veterans Day week, and don't forget to remember those who came before you. (Applause.)

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