Media Availability by Secretary Carter in San Francisco, California
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Well, thank you for being here.
I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this group, this group that's central to the technology community of our country, the fantastically innovative technology community that's important for me, as secretary of defense, because in addition to making sure that we're defeating today's enemies and deterring today's attacks, I need to also make sure that our department remains the best in the world in the future.
And so that my successor and my successor's successor as secretary of defense has what I have, the blessing to have, which is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
And one of the ways we -- we're -- that we are going to do that is the way we've always done it, which is to stay tightly connected to one of America's great strengths, which is its innovative science and technology community.
Here in San Francisco, this is one of the hubs of that for our country, and it's important that people here have an opportunity to connect with us. They're not all going to want to serve in the military, but they may want to serve the public purpose and help protect our country and our people and make a better world for everybody.
And that's what our job is. So I'm trying to give people opportunities to do that. That’s what the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is all about. Its director, Raj Shah, is right here, a great entrepreneur himself, who’s willing to spend his time helping this country and our Department of Defense.
And I have a Defense Innovation Board – come on up, Raj – a Defense Innovation Board which Eric Schmidt of Google and Alphabet renown has agreed to chair. He’s doing an excellent job. Jeff Bezos is a member of that. Reid Hoffman is a member of that. Reid spoke here earlier.
So we have great people who -- people who have made a difference in the world and who like to make a difference in the world.
And one of the ways that they can make a difference is by helping us in our mission. And, they -- people like them are the ones I hope to connect with. That's why I'm here. I'm grateful to Tech Crunch once again for giving me this opportunity and it's good to be with all of you. And I'm happy to answer your questions.
Q: Sir, the news I was watching this morning about separating Cyber Command and NSA (INAUDIBLE) notice haven't been made yet so reporting it sounds like two different recommendation, um, having been made (INAUDIBLE) two separate (INAUDIBLE).
Can you confirm (INAUDIBLE)?
SEC. CARTER: No. No decision has been made. Obviously, this is a subject that is under discussion, both in the executive branch, and also, by the way, Congress is discussing the very same thing. And that's been going on for quite a while.
And, no decision has been made. And, of course, ultimately, whenever that decision is made, it will be made by the president, because, both NSA and CYBERCOM ultimately report to the president. They're part of the Department of Defense, but that's a decision that only the president can take.
Q: (INAUDIBLE) on that. Um, you know, you mentioned that (INAUDIBLE) and but, you know (INAUDIBLE) our cyber force (INAUDIBLE) closely connected.
But, you know, in the (INAUDIBLE) it says (INAUDIBLE) CYBERCOM, the NSA (INAUDIBLE) do you think that would be a reason (INAUDIBLE)?
SEC. CARTER: Well, they have separate functions. One is an intelligence agency, one is a combat support agency.
Whatever happens in the future and whatever decisions are made, uh, in -- in -- in with respect to the management of it, they're going to be interrelated, because they both deal with the technology of cyber -- especially cyber defense, cyber protection, which is CYBERCOM's first military mission.
And NSA, I should remind you, doesn't just work with CYBERCOM and support CYBERCOM in its mission, it supports Central Command and Pacific Command and European Command excellently, with intelligence products for all of them. That's its job. And that relationship will continue with CYBERCOM whatever the managerial circumstances that we work out in the future.
SEC. CARTER: Well, I think -- I think it's an important question and what's important here is that when it comes to the use of lethal force, there always needs to be a human being involved in those decisions. I think that's fundamental. And, by the way, that's not a new principle for our department. It was now, I think, four years ago, when I, as deputy secretary of defense, signed a directive exactly to that effect.
And so that will continue to be the principle that the United States and the United States military, will abide by, and I think it's important that others do the same.
But for us, we're very careful that a -- that in anything we do, we -- we take the greatest care to respect the laws of armed conflict, the Geneva Convention. These are important codifications of the principle that the use of lethal power is a solemn responsibility and there always needs to be a human being involved in making those decisions.
SEC. CARTER: Well, I think that the -- the principle I just enunciated is and should be a universal one, even as the Geneva Convention, is widely understood and subscribed to by everyone.
I think it's an important principle as humans interact with technology, that a human being be in the -- in -- part of the decision-making when anything as solemn as the use of lethal force is -- is involved.
Q: I want to get your reaction about the (INAUDIBLE).
What are your thoughts on that?
SEC. CARTER: Well, we stand, each and every day, in addition to everything else we're doing everywhere in the world, in the Gulf, we have forces to check Iranian aggression and malign activity there.
Where there is an -- and the -- the -- where -- our forces always are capable of protecting themselves, from unprofessional activity, and it's important that the Iranian military not engage in unprofessional military activity, or, by the way, anybody else, around the world.
We don't do that. We don't expect others that share the waterways, uh, to do that. And believe me, our people are capable of protecting themselves.
STAFF: The last question.
SEC. CARTER: Well, the, first of all, the president's spoken to this question, the question of these allegations. And I do need to say that this -- it's law enforcement that investigates allegations, of this kind, not the Department of Defense.
The president has said, which is true, that the -- that the United States would take any such action very, very seriously and would respond, but the investigation of these allegations is a law enforcement matter and I really can't comment on it.
SEC. CARTER: Well, it, I think that -- again, I can only repeat what the president said, which is the -- the president has the entire government at his disposal. But, he said -- which -- what is true, which is even though it's a law enforcement matter, it's a serious matter of national importance to him, as president and he'll make his own decisions about response.
STAFF: Thanks, everybody.
SEC. CARTER: Thank you all very much.