Media Availability with Secretary Carter following DIUx visit in Austin, Texas

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  I thank you all for being here. I’m very pleased to be opening our next outpost of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental right here in Austin. It now joins the hubs we have in Silicon Valley and Boston. Austin is one of our strongest innovation hubs in the United States. So it makes perfect sense.  And it's a great opportunity for us to be here.  We're grateful to the local leadership both here and Capital Factory but also in the government, and in the universities, and in the many companies that already work with defense, very innovative companies that are already here, to help us reach out even more widely into this innovative technology hub.

We're also grateful, of course, for the state of Texas and the Austin area's long standing and deep connection and loyalty to our military and to the mission we carry out for the country.  

So you bring those two things together, you have natural magic here for our country in Austin, Texas.  And I'm very, very grateful for the opportunity to be here.  It's going to make a big difference to our country and it's a logical place for us to be seeking to continue to be what we are today, which is the best military in the world.

STAFF:  Just a couple of questions -- (inaudible) -- press and our travelers as well.  Let me start -- (inaudible) -- please.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, you noted that the DIUx initiative has expanded throughout your tenure from Silicon Valley to Boston and now here to Austin.  How many more units are you planning on opening before you leave office? 

And also, are you confident that this initiative will survive your tenure in the next administration?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, we'll see.  In all likelihood, we will open additional branches.  Remember that each DIUx branch is itself a nationwide network because that's the way the technology community operates.  So even if we have a hub here in Austin, the Austin technology community is connected nationwide, in fact, worldwide.

So I'm not expecting the Austin hub to work only with innovators in Austin.  I think they're going to work with innovators throughout Texas, throughout the central United States and throughout the country.

And with respect to the future of DIUx, the reason to establish DIUx is so that my successors and my successor's successors in the distant future as secretary of defense will continue to have what I have, and it’s my privilege to lead, which is the finest fighting force the world has even known.  That's what DIUx will provide to them.

I'm confident that the logic of keeping us the best will continue through future secretaries of defense.  It just makes so much sense that I can't -- I'm confident that the idea and the whole spirit of innovation will continue to be part of the future of the Department of Defense, even as it has been part of the past.

STAFF:  Sydney.

Q:  Secretary, did you -- I don't know if you have a ballpark of what kind of an investment could come to Austin -- the Austin area.  And could you just elaborate a little more specifically on what kind of role you except U.T. and the Capital Factory to play?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, Capital Factory will be our home, at least initially, and we're very grateful to have it.  It makes perfect sense because there are a lot of innovators here already.  It's already kind of a beehive of activity for Austin.  So it's exactly where we want to be, which is right at the center of things and in the mix.

And of course, universities are a critical part of the innovation ecosystem, and U.T. is one of the nation's great universities.

The way DIUx works is it connects the innovators here, companies that may not have done any business with defense or just trying it out or ones that have long done business with us, to the customers.  And you say how much money is there?  Well, we spend almost $600 billion a year on national defense, and $72 billion of that just on research and development alone.

So the real answer to your question is we're connecting Austin's innovators to that huge need and that huge set of problem sets.  And it will dispense funds itself and in partnership with all our armed services, all our defense agencies, all our missionaries.

And this is place where they will get introduced to the innovators of Austin and the innovators of Austin will get introduced to the folks that are protecting our country but need their help.  

Q:  Mr. Secretary, looking at the Palo Alto office, the Boston office, now this one.  This one is organized differently.

SEC. CARTER:  It is.

Q:  It's not in its own space.  Although there is pro's and con's to that.  It’s also -- I guess one full-time person on a rotation through of your guard and reserve folks, often who have really remarkable talents.  Yes, so is this sort of the DIUx light model or a model to...

SEC. CARTER:  It's not light.  But it is tailored to the strengths of this area.  There's no need to go outside of the capital factory that we're in for now.  We -- these things are going to grow so we'll see how it goes.  The X in it really means experimental.  But it makes sense to start here.  It makes sense to start with the guard and reserve in Austin because there are so many guard and reserves.

It's such a rich combination already of people who have some military knowledge and experience and some technology experience.  So that's just the place we're starting here.  We're starting with what is uniquely strong about Austin and that's both the existing technology, we don't have to invent anything or found anything and also the existing strong connection to the military -- we're trying to leverage what we have and that makes sense.

And all of these places, all of our DIUx outposts will be tailored to the region they're in.  And they'll also continually evolve, that's what experimental means.

Q:  And will this model, to particularly reserve (inaudible) heavy model be one that's easier to replicate across the country or is it related to...

SEC. CARTER:  I think where we start is where there's a very strong innovative culture and that's many, many places in the United States.  So I said each of these hubs, while located in a place and intended to reach out particularly to in this case the Austin and the Texas community, they are nationwide.  

Because that's the way technology works these days.  So I'm expecting them all to have nationwide reach and none of the innovation hubs of America I want to be outside of our orbit.  I want them all to feel connected to us because we need the strength of everything in America.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, will there be any preference given to say, veteran-owned businesses or national reserve businesses that are started as opposed to start-ups that don't have a military background?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, you raise another incredible strength of Austin, which is the number of veteran businesses and we don't need to give them preference because many of them are so good and innovative already.  There is in federal procurement law, a preference, and appropriately so and I'm very pleased it's there, for veteran owned businesses but Austin's veteran owned businesses are founded, succeeding, competing and we need them on their merits.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, since we have you here, we want to hear your thoughts on your assessment on the ceasefire.

SEC. CARTER: Well, the ceasefire as of today looks like it is largely being held. This is very important, I commend Secretary of State Kerry for getting us an agreement, which if it's implemented, will ease the suffering of the Syrian people, which is very important to all of us, very important to the president. 

We've got a ways to go to see whether it will be implemented or not, but if it is, and it will mean that the suffering of the Syrian people is eased. It will mean that Russia gets on the right side of things in Syria and not on the wrong side, and that's good. And, so we in the Defense Department will play whatever role we have with our accustomed excellence. 

STAFF:  Yes?

Q: Thanks for being here.

STAFF: Can you introduce yourself to us; just tell us who you are?

Q: Kelly from (inaudible)

STAFF: I should have said that from the start.

Q: Thanks again. Is there an aspect to the tech industry in Austin that you're specifically looking forward to, or maybe even depending on a bit more so, than say San Francisco or Boston?

SEC. CARTER: Well, in terms of fields of technology, Austin is extremely broad. And so you kind of have it all.  You're present in the I.T. type tech; Austin is present in bio-tech, it’s present in advanced engineering, material science, the whole spectrum. 

As I said, it also has some unique and distinctive strengths; one of them is, as I noted, a strong existing linkage to the military by virtue of the large number of military installations here, the large number of veterans, veteran-owned businesses and the strong guard and reserve presence in culture, in the technology community already. 

So we've got a lot of leverage on the things that are here already, but in technology terms, this place really spans the entire spectrum of future technologies. 

Q: Mark Wiggins from (inaudible).

STAFF: I'm sorry, you already had a question, let me get to two folks that haven’t. I'll come back.

Q: You talked a lot about how tech veterans -- or veterans would get involved in this. What about the rest of the tech community and how do you convince them that their ideas and their concepts, which may be really helpful to you, won't be misused or used for things that they don't want? The militarization of civilian ideas.

SEC. CARTER: Well, I mean, to get to the first part, it's not veterans only, we're actually looking to reach out and build bridges to people who have not worked with us before. And yes, including people who have reservations, because I think when they get to know us, they'll learn two things. 

The first is that the United States military conducts itself in a way that, I think, makes people proud. We're extremely careful in what we do, that we don't harm civilians; no other military is as scrupulous and careful. 

So we do what we do consistent with the values of America and I think when they understand that, that we'll overcome some of those reservations, which is, it's fine to bring in, but I think they'll discover that and I think the other thing they'll discover is the great satisfaction that comes from knowing when you go to bed at night, that you spent your day doing something that contributes to the security of the country and a better world.  There's no better feeling than that.

And we all know we can't do everything else we do.  We can't raise our children, we can't educate ourselves, we can't have great jobs, we can't have fulfilling lives unless we're safe.  So it's a very important mission, and as I think people will find it, a meaningful as well as very dignified way to be spending their time.

But come on in and get to know us and I think that will be the conclusion.

STAFF:  (off mic.)

Q:  Yes, I have a question -- (inaudible) -- central Texas area.  You've mentioned you wanted to utilize the broad range of technology in Austin, but outside of Austin between San Antonio and (inaudible) Fort Hood, we have a really strong training and even intelligence infrastructure and then also medical.

So I'm curious is you guys plan on opening up and integrating that with systems like BAMC, Camp Bullis, Lackland.  Is that the plan?

SEC. CARTER:  You're so right.  Yes.  And the health care is an area I should have also noted, by the way.  A tremendous strength not only of Austin, but of the state and the military presence in the state, to include BAMC.

All those other mission areas -- and we've been speaking here and I have about innovation in technology, but that's only one of the ways that DIUx is going to contribute to innovation.  We have to innovate not just in technology, but also in our operations, in how we conduct military operations, in how we organize for them -- and people are changing the way they organize companies, making them flatter and that sort of thing -- and also innovate in how we manage people.

So one of the things DIUx will do in addition to starting projects by linking innovators to our mission set, it's going to link people.  And some of those people, I hope, will come in and join us for a while.  And it connects our people who are in uniform with the technology community, so when they leave us to retire, they -- and many of them do -- go on to be very important business leaders and community leaders in places like Austin.

So that's good -- it's a great two-way street.

STAFF:  Mark, you get the last one.

Q:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I just wanted to ask you, how concerned are you with what's happening in North Korea right now?  And how far out are they from being able to reach us with their current weapons system?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, obviously we stand every single day strong on the Korean Peninsula and every day -- and this has been going now decade after decade after decade -- we have an extremely strong deterrent posture.  And it's really there set the motto of our forces on the Korean Peninsula is, "fight tonight."  We don't want to do that, but we're ready to do that.

And the way the threat from North Korea's evolving, we stay ahead of that.  So for example, in the matter of ballistic missiles, we started some years ago to improve both the number and the type of the missile defenses of North America.  We are in the process, as you probably know, of deploying some new missile systems with our South Korean allies -- I mean, anti-missile systems, missile defense systems in South Korea with our Korean allies.

We work on the defense of Japan, of Guam, and we're always looking ahead and making sure that we stay ahead of the threat, both in terms of deterrence and defense.

STAFF:  Thanks, everybody.

SEC. CARTER:  Thanks very much.  I appreciate everybody being here.

STAFF:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.