Remarks by Secretary Carter to Sailors Pierside in Naval Base San Diego, California

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Thank you.  Can you hear me?  Can you hear me?  OK.  Let me first of all thank Admiral Tyson, all the rest of the leadership, and all of you, sailors of the Princeton, sailors of the Spruance, for being here, for allowing me on your spectacular vessels, and above all -- above all, for what you do for our country; keep our people safe, and make a better world for our children.  That's the noblest thing you can be doing with your life. 

 

And I'm so proud of you, and I'm so proud to be a part of this wonderful institution, which, as Admiral Tyson said, is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  And there are three things that make it great.  The most important is you.  We have the best people.  It's you.  And caring for your abilities, your capabilities, your welfare, your families, that's the most important thing to me.

 

Second thing that makes us great is what we stand for, what you stand for.  We have all the friends around the world.  People like us.  They like working with Americans, because they like working with you, because they like the kind of people you are, and the kind of values that you bring with you.

 

But the third thing that makes us great is having the greatest technology, and the most powerful capabilities of any other military in the world.  That's something that we have today, and that it's important that we continue to have 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.  So when I and Admiral Richardson, our fantastic chief of naval operations, and all the rest of our leadership, and all of you, even as we fight today's fights, which we have to do -- defeating ISIL, deterring North Korea -- we can't take our eyes off things of today, we also have to cast our eyes ahead 10, 20, 30 years from now. 

 

Innovate.  We have wonderful innovative people like you, and from elsewhere in our society, the most innovative in all the world; innovative operational concepts, and also innovative investments.  And so the last thing I want to touch on today, because it's about -- it's budget time in Washington.  And so the fiscal year 2017 budget is about to come out. 

 

The president will give that to Congress.  You know how the system works.  But we try to -- Congress makes the final decision.  Let's be clear about that.  But we try to tell them what, in our judgment, if we work hard on this, is the best use of the taxpayers' money to defend our country.  And a very substantial amount of that is for the United States Navy, and there's a reason for that, and that is because of the centrality of the Navy to our strategy.

 

And you right now, right here, are at a critical time and a critical place.  You're in the Navy, you're in the Pacific, and you're aboard two of the most formidable ships in the entire world.  And two of the ones that are going to receive the lion's share of the new investments that we'll be making is in the kind of capabilities aboard your ships that represent the lethality, the potency, the power of your ships.

 

And what I want to do is describe some of the investments that are under the category of -- I'm sure you've heard this phrase -- of "distributed lethality."  Lethality is the key word here.  One way, for example, I got a chance to look at some VLS cells today.  And we have a spectacular 8,000 of such VLS tubes in our magnificent fleet.  And we're looking for ways, and we've found ways, and we're investing in ways, to make our weapons in those VLS tubes more lethal, as well as making our ships harder to find themselves, and harder to attack themselves.

 

The phrase I like from your chief of naval operations, is always to make sure -- to ensure that if it floats, it fights.  And that's a very important part of our budget.  Let me give you some of the highlights here.  I'll start not with CRUDES fleet, but with some of the new investments we're making as we build the overall number of ships in the Navy; 308 from about 280 today, so increasing the ship number.  But the important thing I want to emphasize today is the capabilities and lethality of those ships.

 

I'll start with the submarines, rather than the CRUDES.  But we're going to buy nine new Virginia-Class attack submarines over the next five years, including one more with a Virginia payload module.  That is one more than we planned to, we're adding to our investments.  One more extra Virginia payload module, which gives that vessel -- those vessels triple the strike capacity in their vertical launch tubes.  We're also investing $600 million over the next five years in variable size and variable payload, unmanned, undersea vehicles, a new capability you'll be seeing a lot more of.

 

OK, destroyers.  Aegis, 10 new warships in our plan, giving us more of those, which are the most lethal and capable warship ever built; also modernize the combat systems on 12 of them that exist. 

 

Aviation, next.  We're increasing our buy of fighters more than we planned, by dozens over the next five years.  Thirteen more Joint Strike Fighters than we had planned, 16 more F-18 Super Hornets than we planned.  Those buys are all getting much bigger to give the Navy and Marine Corps enough, both fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft for today's fights, and also for tomorrow's fights.

 

Now, after talking about platforms here, but one of the things I was emphasizing yesterday when I was at China Lake is it's not just the platforms and the traditional domains.  We have new domains to master; cyber, space, electronic warfare.  And of course, it's critical that all of these ships have to be as lethal as possible, have the best possible weapons.

 

Let me say something about our investments in munitions.  And the first, I'm going to tell you something that has never -- we've never acknowledged before, but it's time.  But it's a powerful new capability that builds upon something we already have.  It goes like this:  Yesterday I was talking about Tomahawks, I was talking about long-range anti-ship missile.  I want to talk to you today about the SM-6, with which we are going to create a brand-new capability.

 

Now, you know the SM-6.  You launch it from surface ships.  It's a fantastic surface-to-air weapon; highly maneuverable, aerodynamically, and can stop incoming ballistic and cruise missiles that were trying to attack one of our warships.  Can do it in the atmosphere, has very low altitude, acquire them, attack them, kill them.  It's one of our most modern and capable munitions.

 

I'm announcing today new capability for the SM-6.  We're modifying the SM-6, so that in addition to missile defense, it can also target enemy ships at sea at very long ranges.  This is a new anti-ship mode.  It makes the SM-6 basically a twofer.  Can shoot down airborne threats.  And now you can attack and destroy a ship at long range with the very same missile. 

 

By taking the defensive speed and maneuverability that's already in our Aegis destroyers' vertical launch cells, and leveraging them for offensive surface warfare lethality, that makes it a potent new capability for you, surface warfare professionals.  It's also a good deal for the taxpayer, because they're getting two capabilities in one missile. 

 

We know this works.  We actually tested it secretly last month, and it worked.  And so we have invested in our budget that we'll be submitting -- the president will be submitting to the Congress in a couple weeks.  We put it in our budget.  That budget maximizes the production of the SM-6, investing $2.9 billion to buy 600 -- (OFF-MIC).

 

It's always the little things that get you.  All right.  Let's try this.  I think we've got it.  So a very major new investment in a very major new capability for you.  I also know, I've talked about a number of other investments we're making.  There's a lot of talk about the Littoral Combat Ship as well.  As part of the budget, we're taking a new approach with respect to LCS and frigates in the future. 

 

Our decision is to buy 40 of those ships, not the 52-plus that were planned back when that program first started in 2002.  So a little bit of a change in our buy plan for that.  Let me explain why that is.  First of all, we're buying more Littoral Combat Ships because it's a very important ship. We need the capability it provides.  For missions like minesweeping and anti-submarine warfare, the LCS is terrific.

 

But now in 2016, we need to balance our shipbuilding investments among higher-end, more capable ships, like the ones you sail on.  And I said we're buying more of them, submarines; buying more of them, aircraft carriers; buying more of them.  We need to balance those investments, because we face competitors who are challenging us in the open ocean.  But we need to balance investments in those capabilities, advanced capabilities, in a way that we haven't had to do for quite a while.  We need to do that now.

 

And so when we do that balance, we decided to invest more in the high end of our fleet.  Navy's own warfighting analysis concluded that 40 LCS were sufficient.  So that's how many we're going to buy.  Over the next 10 years, we'll put about -- that will allow us to put about $8 billion more into high-end capabilities.  And that is the right decision for us to make at this strategic turning point, so that we have all the lethal ships and the lethal capabilities that I've been talking about with you; all the while, increasing the number of ships, which we'll continue to do.

 

So with this budget, just in sum, our fleet will be larger, it will be much more effective, potent and lethal than it is today, because it'll be equipped with the weapons and the advanced capabilities that it will need to deter any aggressor, and to make any aggressor, who isn't deterred, very much regret their decision to take us on.  That's your job for the future.  That's the job of the Navy in the future.  We need to invest in that.  And you, right here, right now, are at the cutting edge of those investments. 

 

I'll be watching with pride, following you as you sail around the world, carrying the American flag, and standing for all that we stand for, defending our people, making a better world for our children.  Be sure to tell your families tonight that I thank you.  And since I know behind every sailor there's a family -- spouse, kids, parents, brothers, sisters, whatever it is -- tell them how proud we are of you.  And thank them for standing behind you as you stand behind our country.  Good to be with you.

 

I think now what we're going to do is get everybody up, and I get a chance to say what I just said to you, "thanks," but look you in the eye and give you a coin.  Oh, I'm sorry.  We're going to do some questions first.  In fact, it doesn't have to be a question, it can be an observation.  If you have anything you want to ask, or anything you want to say, sure.  Please.  Do we have a mike for folks?  You want to just pass one around here?  Here we go.

 

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  (inaudible), USS Princeton.  In your recent speech on the 2017 budget, you stated that we're going to have to change the way that we fight wars in the future.  What changes can we expect to see around the waterfront the next five, 10 years?

 

SEC. CARTER:  A number of them.  One I'll start with is a very important phrase, "distributed lethality," which means making our ships and aircraft work together in ways that they haven't before, but that technology makes possible. 

 

A second that you'll see around here is the influence of these new domains that are not surface warfare, sub-surface warfare, or air warfare.  They're cyber warfare, they're space warfare, they're electronic warfare, of course, which has been around for a long time, but where there's tremendous pace of change, tremendous opportunity.

 

So you're going to see a fleet that is much more powerful, much more lethal, much more connected, in addition to being larger.  And you'll see all that right here in San Diego, because this is one of the hubs of innovation for our Navy; not just in terms of getting new technology and new investments, but operationally.  And I've been talking to your senior leadership today, and not only about how you'll have new capabilities, but how you'll be using them in new ways.  You're going to be seeing a lot of change here.

 

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  This is (inaudible) from USS Princeton.  I have a few questions about the aggression  of China-powered military in Southeast Asia.  As U.S. Navy, do we have any plans for this aggression , and will the neighbor country of Southeast Asia and the United Nations respond to this aggression?

 

SEC. CARTER:  Very good question.  And this is about China's action, I take it, in making excessive claims in the South China Sea.  Let me take the last part of your question first.  Are people reacting?  They certainly are.  It's causing a tremendous concern.  You mentioned Southeast Asia, but it's actually throughout East Asia.

 

And this is having the effect, which I don't think will be in China's interest in the long run of isolating China.  It's a self-isolating kind of behavior.  I have to say, though, that China is not the only state in that region that makes unfounded claims. 

 

So to get to your other point, the United Nations and so forth, are there international law questions here that need to be addressed?  We're not the people who do that.  But that's a very important question.  These are international claims that go back many years.  The United States doesn't take a position on who gets what.  We -- our position is that these claims shouldn't be pressed with the use of force.

 

And to get to the first part of your question, it's nothing that anybody does there is going to change our operations.  We're going to fly, and sail, and operate wherever international law permits, no matter what.  And are we going to react to new threats in East Asia, including the competitive aspect of Chinese behavior?  Absolutely right.

 

Is the investment -- are the investments I'm talking about today oriented towards making sure that we stay ahead of that possibility?  You're darn right it does.  And I should mention also other high-end antagonists or potential antagonists of whom -- you have to count Russia among them; in some ways, Iran in the naval domain. 

 

So these are countries no one of which we wish to be in a conflict with.  But they need to know that in a conflict with the United States, we'll bring to bear a Navy that no other country can withstand. 

 

Q:  (OFF-MIC)

 

SEC. CARTER:  I can hear you, but not through a microphone.  But go ahead.

 

Q:  There have been multiple policy changes across the services regarding gender neutrality.  And your announcement lifting the gender-base restrictions, which opened up the talent pool for so many different aspects of our force, our Navy's changing its uniforms, remove female uniform items.  And also, the services have initiated reviews of rating names and MOS's to remove the word "man" from those.

 

I was just curious what your vision is in regards to gender neutrality, and what we can look forward to in the future?

 

SEC. CARTER:  Well, it starts with a very simple thing, which is we have an all-volunteer military, which means that we get -- we have to reach into our population and select the very best, the very most qualified, the ones that can meet our most exacting standards to be in our military. 

 

So looking ahead, as the secretary of defense, and all the rest of the senior leadership, we need the very best people, which means that we need to be able to reach into the entirety of the American population to try to attract and retain talented people.  Women make up half of the American population.  And so we have to be able to reach into that part of the population in order to have the very best.

 

Now, like everyone else, they have to meet standards.  I laid out several principles when I announced that we were going to open up all specialties to women.  And I explained why, which is for force effectiveness, because -- so we reach into the largest possible pool.  We're not changing standards.  There'll be no quotas. 

 

But this is the way -- one of the many ways where I'm trying to make sure, and our leadership's trying to make sure, that we retain the very best people.  Because the strength of our military is good people.  That means reaching the largest part of our population.  I mentioned that.  That means making sure that we're tuned to how different generations think, not just different genders, because, you know, people my age are not people your age, or even younger, that we're -- that are going to be the force of tomorrow.

 

We need to think what they're like, and how can we -- without changing our standards, how can we draw them, the very best of them, into our military.  I can't just go out and grab anybody I want off the street who is talented.  We have an all-volunteer force, which means we compete with the rest of society for talent.  And I've got to go everywhere I can possibly go to find talent.  And that obviously includes females.  So I think it's a very important step.

 

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  I'm (inaudible) from USS Spruance.  So as we both all know, we're having a presidential debate, we're about to elect a new president.  My question is, across both sides of the aisle, we have candidates saying that we should have a powerful military, but at the same time, we should not be the world's police.  And obviously, there are a lot of threats out there, and a lot of countries treating their own people inhumanely.  So my question is, to what degree do we step in?  And do you believe that currently we are the world's police; and whether or not we are, should we be?

 

SEC. CARTER:  Well, let me answer the question about our strategy.  I'm not going to say anything about the election campaign, and I want to tell you why.  We have a tradition in our country of nonpartisanship in our defense establishment.  So I will have nothing to do with, and make no comment, on presidential campaigns over the next year, nor will any of leadership of the Department of Defense.  That's a matter of principle for us.

 

So let me take the second part of your question, if I may, and respectfully decline to answer the first part.  What is our role in the world?  Well, we are the leading power.  People look to us.  They look to us, because as I said, of what we stand for.  They look to us because many of them are our allies and security partners. 

 

But we can't and don't do everything ourselves.  We work with others.  And that's very important.  So here we are in the Pacific, and yes, we're indispensable for the security that has made Asia peaceful for 70 years.  But we have powerful allies in Japan, powerful allies in South Korea. 

 

The Philippines are growing militarily, increasing ties to India, to Vietnam.  Old, wonderful ally in Australia.  And I could keep going around the world.  United States has lots of friends and allies.  That's another source of strength for us.  So if we lead them, they amplify our power. 

 

But look around you.  This is a wonderful society.  It has to be defended.  In today's world, we have to defend ourselves.  We have to defend our people.  And you can't do that all at home.  And fortunately, we don't do it all alone.  There are other countries that have to go it alone because of their behavior that makes them unattractive to other people.  But we do have friends.

 

So there's a lot to do, no question about it.  I mentioned all the way from ISIL to North Korea, Russia, China, and so forth.  Those are grave responsibilities.  But this is a great country.  We're capable of doing it.  We can afford it.  That's very important.  We can afford to do this. 

 

And I'm extremely proud of the role we play in the world.  I think we not only defend our people, we make a better world.  But we shouldn't have to do it alone, and in fact, we don't do it alone.  We have lots of friends.

 

(APPLAUSE)

 

So great to be with you.  OK, do I have time to say hi to everybody?  All right, come up. 

 

 

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