Force of Future Requires Best Talent in America, Carter Tells Students

The Defense Department is facing complex threats and needs the "best talent America has to offer" to tackle challenges now and in years to come, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at the University of Texas at Austin.

The best talent for tomorrow's force can come from innovative, bright thinkers such as the young people in the audience today, Carter said.

VIDEO | 01:26 | Carter on the Force of Tomorrow
He noted the audience included ROTC cadets -- future military officers who have chosen a "consequential" career that "makes a great difference" in national and global security.

"As secretary of defense, I have the privilege of leading the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” the secretary said. “But that’s not a birthright. It's not a guarantee. We have to earn it again and again."

Force of the Future

Investments are needed to ensure tomorrow's DoD force, or the "force of the future," is as strong as the one of today, Carter said. "To make that possible, we need more talented and dedicated people like you -- men and women who are committed to making creative and lasting contributions to our national defense," he said.

The Pentagon needs to think outside its "five-sided box" to find the kind of solutions, careers, challenges and opportunities that will ensure "the very best" continue to join the Defense Department, Carter said.

VIDEO | 01:49 | Carter on Building the Force of the Future
A critical part of building the force of the future starts with engaging students, Carter said. It also includes improving and enhancing DoD internship programs, he added, as well as making sure the programs are more effective at transitioning promising interns into productive professionals at DoD.

"I’m proud that so many of you sitting in front of me have already made a decision to be part of this enterprise, which to me is the noblest thing you can do," he said.

Multiple, Complex Threats

The world today is filled with complex challenges, Carter said, calling it a time of incredible change and challenge. DoD is facing challenges that include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, North Korea firing ballistic missiles, Russia illegally annexing Crimea, China attempting to change the calculus in the South China Sea; and Iran continuing to export malign influence, he said.

VIDEO | 01:24 | Carter on Challenges

The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels are an example of a horrendous act that might make young people wonder what they can do to make the world a better place, Carter said.

He told the students they can make significant contributions to the nation and the world, whether they choose a career in DoD or PURSUE other noble endeavors.

"It’s a world of opportunities, too -- wonderful, bright opportunities to leave a better world for future generations," he said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)