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U.S. Department of Defense
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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter December 06, 2016

Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event in Yokosuka, Japan

REAR ADMIRAL CHARLES WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Great day here in Yokosuka. My name is Rear Admiral Charlie Williams, all of you know me as the commander of Battle Force Seventh Fleet, commander of Carrier Strike Group Five. And today, it's a great day for Seventh Fleet sailors, all of you, and it's my personal privilege to introduce our honored guest.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 25th secretary of defense, the Honorable Ash Carter.



Hi, everybody. I'm going to speak real loud and hope that you all can hear me because I know we got quite a bit of wind here.

First of all, let me thank Admiral Williams for introducing me.

By the way, you all -- you guys ought to know that I want you guys all to know that this is big for me, because most of your senior officers I've known in one way or another over the years. And so Charlie Williams, I –get out of the car and I see him and I said jeez, I just saw you like three weeks ago or so in the Pentagon -- (inaudible).

Captain Bennett -- Jeff Bennett, also an old pal of -- of mine and you should know that most of the senior leaders, their families, we're all one family and we're one family with you. And let me start with that, that's the real reason for me being out here -- (inaudible) -- to first and foremost tell you how proud I am of you, how proud it makes me as America's secretary of Defense to lead what is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

We need that because we're very busy these days and you guys know that out here in the Asia-Pacific. Your op tempo is extremely high. I'd like to tell you it's gonna slow down, but it's not. It's in the nature of our world and it's in the nature of our responsibilities.

Here in the Asia-Pacific resides half of the world's population, half of the world's economy will shortly be here. And what that means is that this is the single part of the world that's of most consequence for our country in the long-run. And keeping peace and security here, which we have been essential to for 70 years, is a vitally important mission. And you only have look around this -- just this immediate vicinity, just to pick one, North Korea for example. Serious need for deterrence and defense that only we can provide.

And it doesn't end there. All around the world today, and including in this region, we need to stand strong. Not just for ourselves, but for our allies. And of course, I'm happy to be talking to you here in Japan.

Japan -- our alliance with Japan is essential. It's never been stronger than it is today. It is a two-way street. We do a lot to -- for Japan -- (inaudible) -- they do a lot to give us forward presence here in a part of the world where we want to -- (inaudible) -- together against common opponents, of which North Korea is one. We work together to keep a system of principle and order out here when it's challenged.

We do all that, but we do that with friends and allies, and the -- one of the things I hear as I travel around and I talk to foreign leaders is they always tell me, you know, our people really like working with your people. And it's not just that you're really good at what you do, it's also because of the way you conduct yourselves and what you stand for. They love that. They like to work with Americans. That's why if you -- (inaudible) -- in the world and our opponents -- (inaudible) -- that's not an accident.

So, this -- (inaudible) -- right now, in the midst of the -- the most important strategic transition our country is making. And without you and this presence right here, this alliance, we couldn't do what we need to do. So, you are strategically at an essential place at an essential time.

I also want to just say something about you personally -- (inaudible) -- holiday time and many of you are deployed for a couple hundred days a year. That's a lot time away from your families. Some of you even here -- (inaudible) -- with your families who are back stateside. And it's family time of year at holidays. That's why my wife Stephanie is here -- I don't where she is, but she can't always travel with me because she works, but she wanted to come on this trip, especially at holiday time, because we're all one family.

(inaudible) -- we think about it. We are what you wake up for. I mean -- sorry -- you are what we wake up for every morning. You're what's on our mind every morning. You are doing with your lives the noblest thing that a person can do with their life, and that is dedicate it to the protection of our people and leaving a better world for our children. That's your mission.

There are lots of other things you can be doing with your life. You're talented people because we picked you. And we don't take for granted that we have you. And we work very hard to get the very best and to retain the very best and to develop you as sailors in the course of your career.

But for you, like for me and everybody else in this great -- this awesome Department of Defense that we have, what we do is wake up every morning knowing that we're part of something bigger than ourselves. That's what you've given your life to. Our -- so that makes me very proud, very proud of you. Also -- and I can certainly say that on behalf of the rest of the Department of Defense.

I can also say that on behalf of our great country too. You know, Americans don't understand what you do, many of them have not served, but they do appreciate what you do. I sense it. I travel around the country. They tell me again, they don't always know, but they know that they're well protected. They know they're protected by the very best. They have great respect for you and they have -- take great pride in you. That's a wonderful thing.

It's something you deserve, but again, I don't take that for granted either. But when I hear it, I'm very glad to hear it, because they should be proud of you.

So, take a moment over the holiday time, first of all to be proud of yourself, but also to talk to your family and remind them that hard as things are sometimes for you and demanding as we sometimes are of you, that you're doing the noblest thing a person can do with their life. So, thank you for that. God bless you at this holiday time. God bless our wonderful country.

I now -- I -- I got a little time and I'm going to let -- let you ask some questions or make a comment, if you have something that you think I ought to know that I might not know, have at it. Any topic is good. And then what I want to do is save plenty of time because I want to take each and every one of you, shake hands with you, look you in the eye and thank you personally.

And here comes -- okay, so I think what you do is you come up and -- to this microphone right? You want to switch out. Okay.


SEC. CARTER: You know, we don't have to do the questions.


SEC. CARTER: Hey, come on up. This is good. Here you go -- here you go. All right, have at it.

Q: Good afternoon, sir -- (inaudible).

SEC. CARTER: Speak -- speak directlyin, it's real hard because of the wind.

Q: My question is, what's our current plan to counter the anti-ship cruise missile threats posed to –our naval forces out here -- (inaudible). For example, the proliferation, the anti-ship cruise missiles by Russia and other regional actors. Our current anti-ship cruise missile capability is limited to the Harpoon, which was developed in 1977 and deployed in 1977.

SEC. CARTER: Okay. I don't know if everybody got that, but it was about anti-ship cruise missiles and our ability to defend our own ships and it's an excellent question.

And we're -- we are doing a lot and spending a lot of money. I can't tell you everything we're doing, and you probably know more than me that you could say in -- in that question, but let me -- let me give you a general answer to it.

This is a competitive world and our enemies and potential enemies are working very hard to get new technology to counter our capabilities, and that's why I have been so intent upon investing in new capabilities -- advanced capabilities. Remember, we -- we spent about 15 years focused very heavily on counter-insurgency in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The strategic transition I was speaking of earlier is to pay more attention to full-spectrum conflict, and that includes these high-end threats. That -- that is why our priority, mine and the CNO's and the rest of the Navy leadership, is on lethality, range, the ability to strike first before you're struck, self-defense that is up to date in terms of the type of seekers that are on anti-ship cruise missiles. So a ship's survivability and lethality comes first.

That readiness, your compensation and shipbuilding are kind of the four ways that we spend our money. Obviously we'd all like to have more money, but the -- we're putting a priority on ship lethality right now. That is the CNO's top priority and that has -- and I've backed him fully in that regard.

And you're right. Without going into detail, we have some catching up in certain areas to do. I'm sure you know.

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. My question is, for the upcoming change in administration next month, what can we here in Seventh Fleet expect for priority changes?

SEC. CARTER: The question was with the change in administration, what changes out here can you expect? So, let me say two things about that.

First of all, I don't want to speak for the next administration -- I can't speak for the next administration. We are welcoming -- gonna be welcome to them in this -- this time of transition. We've done that for 240 years. We're ready for that, we prepared for that. We're gonna do a very professional job of it, so that the new team can -- and our new president-elect can hit the ground running.

The -- the -- I think what you can expect here is that this -- the continued importance of this region, everybody recognizes that. And so that's gonna mean for you a continued high op tempo, a continued priority in the Navy in terms of newest equipment -- most high-end equipment will end up here. I think you can expect a continued heavy investment in capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Everybody recognizes that this is the single region of greatest consequence to America's future. So, your strategic mission and your strategic need are connected to the world out here. And the -- the world isn't going to change because our administrations are changing. So, new people will make their own decisions, but it -- but it's gonna be in the same strategic context that you are now operating.

STAFF: We got time for one more.

SEC. CARTER: Okay. One more?

Q: Hey. Good afternoon, sir. Welcome -- (inaudible). I'm -- (inaudible). So, my question is -- (inaudible) -- operations in South China Sea. What are the new requirements and planning for manning and maintenance requirements for our force, sir?

SEC. CARTER: Okay. Question was it's -- particularly, you started out with South China Sea operations and maintenance requirements, and it really associated, I guess with a high op tempo.

It's a very good question and -- and is this a very good place to ask that question actually, because this is one of the bright places in the overall Navy maintenance system here, Yokosuka. We -- and we get terrific help from the Japanese in this regard, do a lot of our ship maintenance.

Maintenance is closely related to op tempo. And I would say, you know, alongside the question about the ship lethality and survivability, it is the -- the other thing that I talk most with the Chief of Naval Operations about.

There's a backlog in -- in maintenance in some –class areas. There are times when it takes too long and it is the pacing item, in many cases, for our ability to put ships to sea, and of course, that's that point of having them in the first place. High op tempo's a good thing in this -- I know it works you harder, but it's a good thing in the sense that it's making better use of -- (inaudible) -- in the first place.

You know, there's a lot to say about that in addition to good things about Yokosuka, but it's an issue for carriers and of course – CVN 76-- but really every ship class. And it's really not the Navy either. In the Marine Corps, there's a -- we have a lot of issues, and the commandant and I talk about this a lot, the -- in aviation maintenance.

And so each service had readiness and maintenance issues. They're all different because the services are different, but it's a big priority for us. So, as we try to balance what we do within the amount of money we're given, it -- it's a pretty high priority for us. We can't have everything, but we need to have that.

That's an excellent question. They're all good questions. And what that says is you guys know your business and I knew that anyway, but it's really an impressive group. Just remember how proud I am of you.

And I don't know where Stephanie went, but I just want to point out my wife, somewhere -- somewhere over here. But really, from my family to your family, we are so proud of you. There she is. So, there's Steph -- that's right. I was just telling her -- (inaudible) -- this is a family affair. And Steph is so glad -- is a huge booster too. She loves you guys. She thinks about you guys all the time.

And so, from our family to yours, happy holidays.




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