Carter: New Generation is
Future of National Security
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — March 30, 2015 — On the first day of a two-day domestic trip,
Defense Secretary Ash Carter today visited the high school he attended in
Abington, Pennsylvania, to speak with students whose generation, he said,
represents the future of national security.
Carter -- Abington class of 1972 -- got a standing ovation as
he took the podium. After he spoke and answered a round of questions from
students in the packed high school auditorium, they stood, clapped and cheered
as he thanked them for their attention.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks to students at
his high school alma mater, Abington
On his first domestic trip as defense secretary, Carter is
also scheduled to visit Fort Drum in Jefferson County, New York -- home of the
10th Mountain Division. There, he plans to meet with troops who recently served
Before traveling back to Washington, the secretary will stop
at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, to discuss the department’s
commitment to building what he calls the “force of the future.”
Joining the Military
In his remarks, Carter referenced the 150-plus Abington
graduates who had joined the military before and after attending college since
The secretary mentioned of some of his favorite high school
teachers and coaches, some of whom were in the audience. He also named Lt. Matt
Capps, a Navy helicopter pilot and 2000 graduate, whose mother Carole, a school
employee, was in the audience.
“Movies like ‘American Sniper,’ video games like ‘Call of
Duty’ and TV commercials with troops coming home are most likely where you see
our military in your everyday lives, unless you have a family member or friend
who is serving,” Carter said. Those images are somewhat true, he added, but
they’re only part of what the 2.3 million men and women in uniform do every day
in their jobs and in their lives.
The Future of National Security
“I wanted to come here today because your generation
represents the future of our country and the future of our national security,”
Carter told his audience.
“We now have the finest fighting force the world has ever
known,” he said to applause, “and they’re not just defending our country against
terrorists in such places as Afghanistan and Syria and Iraq -- they’re helping
defend cyberspace, too.”
Service members work with cutting-edge technologies such as
robotics and in fields such as biomedical engineering, the secretary said.
When disaster strikes, military forces deliver aid all over
the world, he added, from the 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan to super
storm Sandy in the United States. And they mobilized to Africa to save thousands
of lives, helping to keep the deadly Ebola virus disease from spreading around
Evolving Military Missions
“Our country’s military missions continue to evolve rapidly
as our world changes and technology continues to revolutionize everything we
do,” Carter said, “and … the institution I lead, the Department of Defense, must
keep pace with that change as well to keep our nation secure.”
The secretary told the students that some people join the
service right after high school and pursue a college education over time while
serving. Some in college participate in the ROTC, a college-based program for
training commissioned officers.
“In all cases, college and higher learning are encouraged,
because we need our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to be the best and the
brightest this country has to offer,” Carter said.
Nearly 40 percent of military officers come from ROTC
programs at colleges and universities, he added, noting that the services send
many members to top-notch graduate programs, such as civil engineering at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, medical school at Stanford University,
and business school at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The New GI Bill
Everyone who serves, Carter added, can get college benefits
through the GI Bill –- now called the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance
Act of 2008 -- which over the past five and a half years has helped more than
1.3 million Americans pay for college.
“You don’t have to join the military to serve your country –-
I didn’t,” Carter said. “But Matt and all those other Abington graduates are the
foundation of our future force.”
The future force has other pieces too, he added, such as
having the best technology and the best planes, ships and tanks. “But it all
starts and ends with our people,” he added. “If we can’t continue to attract,
inspire and excite talented young Americans like you, then nothing else will
To help build the future force, the department must be able
to attract young people and put the current generation’s command of technology
to work for the nation, the secretary said.
Building the Future Force
Carter mentioned the kind of data-driven technology that
allows Netflix to suggest movies and TV shows, Twitter to suggest who to follow
and Facebook to suggest who to add as a friend. He said the same technology
could be applied to chart how people are doing every day in all aspects of their
“We also need to use 21st-century technologies –- similar to
LinkedIn and Monster.com –- to help develop 21st-century leaders and give our
people even more flexibility and choice in deciding their next job when they’re
in the military,” he added.
The department has internships, fellowships and pilot
programs that allow people to pause their military service for a few years while
they get a degree, learn a new skill or start a family, the secretary said, but
he added that such programs are still small.
“These programs are good for us and our people, because they
help people bring new skills and talents from outside back into the military,”
Carter said. “So we need to look not only at ways we can improve and expand
those programs, but also think about completely new ideas to help our people
gain new skills and experiences.”
Equal Opportunity, Better World
Carter said the department also plans to keep making sure
that anyone who is able and willing to serve their country has a full and equal
opportunity to do so, drawing talent from a range of gender, racial, religious,
cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds.
“Whether you’re a man or woman, gay, lesbian or straight --
no matter what walk of life your family comes from -– we’ll make sure you’re
treated with dignity and respect,” Carter told them.
The secretary said the services will be competing hard around
the country for talent like that represented by the students at Abington.
“I know that not everyone here is thinking about military
service, and that’s okay,” he said. “If you’re like I was and you’re still
interested in serving your country and making a better world, we need to be
ready to help with ways you can serve as a civilian. Right now that’s not
something our local recruiters offer, but we have to rethink that.”
The department wants people to consider military and public
service because, “when it comes to working in national security, no matter what
you do –- military or civilian –- you will be better off for having been a part
of this incredible mission,” Carter said. “Whether it’s the people, the skills
or the experiences, nothing else compares. I guarantee it.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on
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