Carter: DoD Must Embrace
Future to Remain Best Force
By Amaani Lyle, DoD News, Defense Media
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — September 16, 2015 — Two days before the Air Force’s 68th
birthday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at the Air Force Association’s
Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2015 at the Gaylord National
Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., that the military must
embrace the future to remain the best force. The defense secretary said the
gathering’s theme, “Reinventing the Aerospace Nation,” could not be more
appropriate in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the first successful
use of combat aircraft.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks at the Air
Force Association's Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16,
2015. Secretary Carter reaffirmed the Department's commitment to innovation and
“Over the past century, no nation has used air power to
demonstrate its global reach, to compress time and space like the United
States,” Carter said. Today, he said, it’s vital to innovate and reinvest in the
people, strategies and technologies that will sustain the U.S. military’s
dominance into a second aerospace century.
Just as Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities
ranging from stealthy network penetration to intellectual property theft, the
defense secretary said, criminal and terrorist networks are also increasing
their cyber operations.
“Low-cost and global proliferation of malware have lowered
barriers to entry and have made it easier for smaller, malicious actors to
strike in cyberspace,” Carter said. “From cyber to electronic warfare to threats
in outer space and under the sea, we need to redouble our effort on those
frontiers.” But developing the best technology and strategy calls for recruiting
and retention of the best people to implement these concepts, the secretary
Commitment to People
The secretary said his “first and most sacred” commitment is
to the current and total force: active duty, Guardsmen, reservists, veterans and
The Air Force has been at war since Desert Storm, despite
leaner forces and aging platforms, Carter said, continually providing the United
States the flexibility to demonstrate the “example of our power and the power of
our example anywhere in the world.” U.S. airmen, he said, have conducted
two-thirds of all airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant since
last September, enabling ground partners to reclaim territory ISIL took last
In the west, Carter said, the U.S. sent airmen to Europe to
take face Russian aggression with NATO partners and deployed F-22 fighter jets
to spearhead a persistent and dominant air, land and sea presence in the region.
“Our strategic approach to [Vladimir] Putin’s Russia is strong and balanced and
necessitates a new playbook for the NATO alliance in which our airmen play a
vital part,” the defense secretary said.
Whether bringing swift relief to Nepal after its devastating
earthquake in April, or convening a global, orchestrated effort to contain the
Ebola virus in West Africa, the Air Force has led the way, the secretary said.
A New National Security Strategy
Carter said he is committed to provide President Barack Obama
with candid, strategic advice and to implement the president’s decisions. “Every
strategic decision we make should be a step toward keeping us safe, protecting
our country and protecting our allies and friends,” he said.
After 14 years of war, the Air Force plays a critical role as
the military writ large embarks on a critical strategic transition, adjusts its
counter-insurgency focus and redoubles its full-spectrum capabilities, Carter
The Asia-Pacific region encompasses nearly half of humanity
and accounts for more than half the world’s economic power, Carter said. And the
Asia-Pacific region, he added, is where the Air Force will position the majority
of its high-end assets as part of strategic rebalance efforts.
“We’re working to align our security, economic and diplomatic
investments in the region to match our vital and growing interests there,” he
The rebalance has long represented the sustainment of peace
and prosperity across the region and support of a security architecture that is
inclusive, capable and resilient enough to ensure all nations have the
opportunity to ascend, Carter said.
The Air Force strengthens its posture in the region with
tactical aircraft such as the F-22 in conjunction with space and cyber forces,
and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets such as the MQ-9 and
Global Hawk, the secretary said.
The United States will bolster and modernize infrastructure
across the Pacific, deepening security cooperation with long-standing allies
like Guam, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines, and with new
partners such as India and Vietnam, Carter said.
However, the secretary acknowledged relative complexities in
the relationship with China, noting that it is defined by elements of both
cooperation and competition.
“Our military engagement with China seeks to build sustained
and substantive dialogue to advance concrete, practical cooperation in areas of
mutual interest and to enhance risk reduction measures to diminish the potential
for miscalculation,” he said.
Concurrently, given concern over China’s growing military
capabilities and coercive approach to disputes, Carter noted the United States
is taking prudent steps to prepare for heightened competition.
Of the South China Sea disputes, the defense secretary
acknowledged the interest of the United States in slowing further militarization
and land reclamation and in promoting renewed diplomacy focused on a lasting
solution that protects the rights and interests of all. “The United States will
continue to protect freedom of navigation and will reflect principles that have
ensured security and prosperity in this region for decades,” he said.
The Specter of Sequestration
Despite deep cuts in defense spending since fiscal year 2013, the national
defense strategy’s four pillars -- land defense, multiple contingency response
capability, sustainment of the counter-terrorism campaign and response to cyber
and space threats -- remain sound, Carter said.
But with only 14 days remaining in the fiscal year, he lamented the budget
impasse that portends sequestration or another continuing resolution.
“Without a negotiated budget solution in which everyone comes together at
last, we will again return to sequestration, reducing discretionary funds to
their lowest real level in a decade,” the defense secretary said.
And, Carter explained, a continuing resolution can also jeopardize national
security and eventually result in a $38 billion deficit in resources for the
U.S. military if Congress elects to pursue that path for a full year.
“What we have under sequestration or a long-term continuing
resolution is a straight-jacket,” the defense secretary said. “Without
reinvestment in recapitalization, without a long-term budget horizon, we simply
cannot achieve what [this event] has brought us all together to achieve, which
is reinventing the aerospace nation.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)
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