Remarks by Secretary Carter in a Worldwide Troop Talk Moderated by Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Thank you.  Thanks, everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

STAFF:  Welcome.  

SEC. CARTER:  All right.  Good to be here.

STAFF:  How are you?

SEC. CARTER:  I'm great.  I'm great.  

STAFF:  (inaudible) -- just down the hall.

SEC. CARTER:  I know.  Being here with these guys is great.

STAFF:  Of course, perfect.

All right, well, sir, you know, it's been about a year since the last time you were here.  And, you know, we just want to ask why is it so important that you come visit us and get able -- you're able to engage with the troops?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, this particular way of doing it, which I'm really grateful for, lets me get to so many other people.  I mean, you all on camera here, you're what I wake up for every morning.  This is what it -- where my mind is all the time, on you guys.

You are what makes ours the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  It's our people.  It starts with our people.  So that's my whole day and all my attention basically centered on our folks.  

Now, I travel around the world, and I see our folks who are deployed.  I see our folks that are all at posts and installations and so forth.  And you talk to as many of them as you can, try to listen to what they're saying, pick up things that help us do a better job here of supporting you, because that's why we're in Washington here in the Pentagon.  We work for you.

But this one lets me -- I mean, the technology and so forth.  We're going to be talking to folks all around the world.  And so it's a great opportunity for me to reach more people and hear from more people.

STAFF:  Perfect.  All right.  Well, thank you.

You know, last time you -- it wasn't me -- but last time we had a worldwide troop talk, you were only about six months in office.  So I'm sure a lot has happened since then.  I know you recently made changes to the maternity leave policy, as well as transgender policy.  So what else can you tell me about what's been going on since the last troop talk?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I'll talk a little bit about some of our Force of the Future things, but let me just jump ahead.  There's a whole lot that we do here.  And in addition to thinking about the future and taking care of our people, of course, we are -- we are defeating our enemies.  And so in the last 18 months we've also gotten a lot of results in what will be the certain crushing of ISIL in Iraq and Syria and everywhere else in the world.  We can come back to that.  That's really important.

But you asked about people and things like maternity policy.  The -- I mean, look at these folks here.  I need to make sure as secretary of defense that not only do we take care of you, but that there comes behind you a generation that's as fine as you are.  I can't take that for granted because the economy changes, people's lives change, kids are different in every generation, and they think differently.

And if I'm going to -- if I'm going to reach out to them and make them feel the excitement of service, and the nobility of doing what is the finest thing you can do with your life, to protect other people and make a better world.  If I'm going to attract them, I've got to keep thinking about what that's going to be like.

Likewise, I've got people here.  I want to keep you.  And so how do I keep people?  So you -- let's take maternity just as an example.  We are a married force.  About 70 percent of our commissioned officers are married.  And about half of our enlisted are married.  That's high by national standards.  It's good.  We have, you know, good family life, a stable place for kids to grow up.  And all that's -- all that's great.

But it also means this, that when a service member has been in for, let's say, 10 years, and reaches that decision point where I want them to stay because they've been here that long.  They've gotten really good at what they do.  And they've got a future ahead of them.  And I want to keep that.  That's exactly the time in their lives, Holly, when they are thinking about having a family, frequently.

And I -- that has to be a priority for them, but I want us to be also a priority.  And to the extent possible, those two things not to clash.  So I can't do everything.  I've got to deploy people where I've got to deploy them.  I've got to send them where I've got to send them.  It kind of is what it is.  It's the profession of arms.  You've got to do what the nation needs.

But wherever we can afford to be flexible, we should be flexible.  So, in maternity leave, for example, we doubled the length of that.  We looked at the readiness implications and decided it was way worth it in terms of retention, compared to any impact it had on readiness.  Did the same thing, smaller, but for paternity leave also, because dads matter as well.

And in all of these things that you see -- the family programs and other things, and reaching out to make sure that the entire population -- females, yes; transgender, yes -- because we're an all-volunteer force.  And so I've got to -- it -- not everybody gets in.  Right?  We pick the best.  But I want to be able to pick from the widest pool and pick purely based on their qualifications and their ability to contribute to service, and not anything else.  What matters is can you meet the standards and are you the best.

STAFF:  Thank you for that, Mr. Secretary.  You can even look at the audience and see the wide variety of people that are here today and it's across the board.  So, we want to make sure--

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. CARTER:  It's got to be that way.

STAFF:  Perfect.  All right.

Well, sir, thank you for all of that information.  I'm sure that answered some questions for those watching at home.  But of course, we have plenty more questions coming your way, so let's go ahead and get started.

SEC. CARTER:  There you go.

STAFF:  We're going to head out first to Baghdad, Iraq.  Now, keep in mind, there may be a little bit of a delay.  This is live.  So Baghdad, if you can hear me, Staff Sgt. Rory Radtke go ahead with your questions for the secretary of defense. 

Q:  Mr. Secretary, once ISIL is defeated in Iraq, will there be an enduring presence for the U.S., much like there is in Korea?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, it's a good question.  But first of all, let me -- I like the way you think -- once ISIL is defeated.  Damn right.  ISIL is going to be defeated.  That -- that part is right.  And then you're right, what comes after that?

What's important, and you know because of the way you're approaching this, and working with the Iraqi forces, which can be frustrating, but is the only way to do it because it's the only way to make victory stick.  We can't run these places.  We can't govern these countries.

So once we defeat ISIL, it's important that the people who live there regain their countries and -- and govern them in a way that doesn't let radicals get back in.  So that is why we're taking the approach to the war that you are right now, and very successfully.

And, of course, where we position forces or station forces is a decision that the governments of those countries make.  So that will be something down the road that we work with the Iraqi government with.  What's obvious and very clear is we're going to be in that region for a long time, because we're going to be worldwide -- (inaudible).  We're in the Asia Pacific.  We're in Europe.  We're going to be in the Middle East, because ISIL is a big problem, but one we're going to take care of through defeat.

But we have Iran over there.  I mean, there are other issues in the Middle East.  And then we go to Europe, we have the possibility of Russian aggression, as the kind we saw in Ukraine.  You can go out to the Asia Pacific, which is an important region that's generally peaceful, but it's only peaceful when peace is kept. 

And so it's a big world out there, and we're going to be there.  And you bet, we'll be in your region even after ISIL is defeated. And ISIL will be defeated.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SEC. CARTER:  Keep up the good work.  I'll see you in a little while, by the way.

(Laughter.)

Can't tell you when.  You know, the OPSEC thing.

STAFF:  Of course. 

All right.  Well, that was Staff Sgt. Rory Radtke in Baghdad, Iraq.  He is actually a combat engineer and he's part of the 101st Airborne Division.  So props to him out there.

You know, Mr. Secretary, I was thinking about the show today.  And I was doing a little research.  And actually it was the Air Force's birthday just a few days ago.  And of course, it was the birthday of your job, the Office of the Secretary of Defense as well.  So bear with me a little bit, and think back to maybe the first secretary of defense.  That was 1947.

I'm going to say he didn't have a Twitter account.

SEC. CARTER:  He -- he didn't.  And actually, I hate to say this, but he had other issues as well, and actually committed suicide.  So the job didn't get off to a great start.

STAFF:  Well, that's not good. 

SEC. CARTER:  And I don't -- I'm not sure anybody ever knows why, but things have gone well after that. 

And I will say we've been really blessed.  I've worked for secretaries of defense here in this building since, God help me, 1980.  So I've known all of these people.  And we've been blessed with people who were real patriots, who really cared.  You know, who worked hard -- (inaudible).  It's one of the reasons why we have the finest.  I've got good people in front of me.  And I've got to make sure I leave to my successors and my successors' successor what I have been blessed to have, which is this magnificent military.

STAFF:  Well, and it's great that you're able to sit here today with us and engage with our audience here in the Pentagon, and of course, on social media.  So let's go now to Twitter and see what they have been asking you.

This is from joseibarra247:  How have you applied what you learned as a medieval history major to your role as SecDef?

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER:  Obviously, the wise guy answer is it's not so bad to know something about the dark ages when you're doing what we have to do.  But the serious answer, I was actually interested in history and I was interested in physics.  So those are two different things.  And they were kind of right brain, left brain things.  And you've got probably the same variety of interests in yourself.

History is good to know in what we do, because it's very good to know why -- it's one of the explanations for why things are the way they are.  And it helps you solve problems, when you say, "Now, what do I do about this?"  And you think back, "Well, what else like this has happened in the past?  Can I look back on history and understand?"

Physics is useful because it's very important to know how the world works.  For us, it's important to know how our weapons systems work, how our systems work, and space, cyber.  And if that's mysterious to you, it will be harder to do what you need to do.

So they've both been -- been useful to me.  And it's a good reason why everybody -- why -- continuing to give you all training opportunities and educational opportunities is important to you to continue to grow and learn.  We all do.  I'm still learning.  And in today's world, you don't stop learning when you're a kid.  You want to keep learning your whole life.  And we've got to give people the opportunity to do that.  It makes them better for us, and it makes them more inclined to stick with us because they have their -- it's an opportunity to improve themselves.  We all do that.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you for that, Mr. Secretary.

And it just shows that there's a variety of backgrounds that can be beneficial to what we do every day.

SEC. CARTER:  You bet. 

STAFF:  Great.  Thank you.

We're going to go right now to someone who's doing a little learning themselves.  We're going out to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York.  I was just out there a little while ago for the Wounded Warrior Games.  And it's a beautiful campus out there.  So go ahead with your question for the secretary of defense.

Q:  Sir, good morning.  I'm Cadet Adam Kratch, first class cadet at West Point.  Thanks for taking my question.

So, something we see a lot in the news recently is state-sponsored cyber attack from nations like Russia, China, and North Korea.  How will the force of the future handle this challenge?

SEC. CARTER:  And let me just add, you're absolutely right, Adam.  And by the way, West Point does some important research in this area.  It's very helpful to us.  And let me just add to your problem set -- non-state actors as well.  I mean, they can be amateurs.  They can be criminals, clever people anywhere with a keyboard.  And so it's a big problem for us.

And job one for us is the protection of our own networks, because you can't do what you need to do unless you're connected.  That's one of the ways that we dominate enemies.  And so I need to make sure that the soldiers and the sailors and the airmen and the Marines and the aircraft and the ships and everything else are connected. 

And in today's world, you have to defend that.  So we have service cyber units.  We have a Cyber Command.  And the future, that is an area where we're making big investments.  And money really isn't the key.  People are the key -- good people.

So, making sure folks up there at West Point, just to take one of our educational institutions, get good training in cyber.  I was up there a little while ago.  I missed the Warrior Games because of weather, but I was up there for another reason, and went to one of your classes where you're doing cyber training, and probably all of you have had some training there.

But it's a critical part of our military capability in the future.  The key is people.  Therefore, another part of the force of the future has to be people who are -- not everybody, but some people who are the best in the world at cyber and particularly cyber -- cyber defense.  It's a people problem much more than a money problem.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And Cadet Adam Kratch, thank you.  I believe --

SEC. CARTER:  Thanks, Adam.

STAFF:  I believe he has another question for you --

SEC. CARTER:  Sure.

STAFF:  -- though.

So go ahead with your question.

Q:  So sir, a big question right now that I have for you is who do you have winning this year, Army or Navy?

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER:  You know -- you know, Adam, I can't answer that question.  You know I can't do that.  I -- I have to give you the -- the I hope for a great game answer.  But I'll be there.  I'll be there.  You can read my body language or more importantly read my -- my wife's.

(Laughter.)

She's a huge football fan.  And it's always a great game.

Q:  Thank you.

SEC. CARTER:  But I can't say.  Joint guy here.

(Laughter.)

STAFF:  We're purple.  You're here rooting for purple.

SEC. CARTER:  Purple guy.

STAFF:  All right.  Well, speaking of purple, we have a purple audience here with us live at the Pentagon, so we're going to go ahead and get a question from somebody in our audience.

So if you have a question for the secretary of Defense, please stand up.  Get a microphone.  Introduce yourself and go ahead with your question.

Q:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  I'm (inaudible).  I'm a public affairs officer with CHINFO. 

My question for you is with military budget cuts and a looming continuing resolution, how does the department plan to address the service's budgetary, you know, needs and requirements, particularly in the areas of the nuclear triad and Ohio replacement class?

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.  Very -- very good question.  I -- I will be up tomorrow morning on Capitol Hill arguing exactly for that. 

The -- the -- let me -- let's try to begin at the beginning here, which is we need the resources that are necessary to defend the country and keep our force the finest.  And the only way that budget -- stable budgets year in, year -- which is what we need.  We need budget -- we can't have this up, down herky-jerky, not certain whether we're going to get a budget.

You know, geez, it's the 25th of September, so the fiscal year ends in a few days, but we don't have a budget for next year again for the eighth consecutive year.  And so -- now, I can't control that, but I'm pleading with Congress.  The only way to do this is to come together bipartisan -- you know, the only way anything gets done ultimately -- and get gridlock behind and get behind the stable budget.

For us, and also, I should say, you know, I -- we -- I can't be indifferent as secretary of Defense to the budgets of the FBI and the intelligence community and the Department of Energy, which helps us with nuclear weapons, which I'll get to in a moment.  And all -- in the long run, everything else, like education and research and development that make our country strong.  So I can't speak for their budgets, I don't deal with their -- their issues.

But everybody needs some measure of budget stability, and we know that it needs to be balanced.  And therefore, all the parts need to come together.  And the only way to get that is for people to come together.  It's been very frustrating not to have that.

Nevertheless, we -- our managing as best we can risk under those circumstances.  Our top priority -- the chiefs were up on the Hill last week talking about that and I'll be talking about it with the chairman tomorrow -- is readiness.  We never want anybody to go into harm's way who isn't fully trained for the mission they're going into.  That's got to be job one; that's our highest priority.

And as we try to balance the budget, we balance it against other things that we'd also like to spend money on.  We think we'd make the best judgments in here about that, so when we submit a budget to the president and to Capitol Hill, it reflects our best judgment.  And we're -- we're real hard on this, about what we need and how to balance these things.  And I -- I wish they -- that respect would be shown for the judgment of our leadership here about what is the best investments and we would get some budget stability.

So that's my plea.  You'll hear more on that tomorrow.

With respect to the nuclear triad -- and I think you mentioned that -- we are committed to a safe, secure and reliable nuclear triad into the future as far as I can see.  That is a bedrock capability for the United States, not in the news a lot.  Fortunately, you don't see us using it or -- and that's a good thing, but the reason for that is that it's always there.  It's there in the background, it's not in the headlines.  It's in the background as a guarantor of our security and of nuclear stability around the world.

We're going to make investments in that because we need to -- everything gets old and needs to be replaced, so the Ohio-class replacement is the Trident submarines, which are going to be replaced by new, very good submarines also.  That has to happen.  We're building a new bomber, not just for the nuclear mission, but a new stealthy bomber, the B-21 bomber, the Air Force -- but it will also have nuclear capability on top of the other bombers that we already have that have nuclear capability.

And we're also gonna recapitalize the Minuteman ICBM force.  All of that and keep the nuclear umbrella over countries in Europe and Asia, which we have treaty commitments to.  All that we've got to do, and we've got to afford that and that's gonna be a matter a balancing. 

I'm confident we will do that, because it's so important that I'm confident that those who manage those programs as the years go by will do so.  They'll spend as little as they can because we're always trying to be as efficient and economical as possible.  But I'm confident we'll keep all three legs of the triad going.  Have to.

Q:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, sir.

And hopefully that answered your question.

If you're watching at home on AFN or streaming live on Facebook, you can always still submit a question to be considered during the show.  Just use that #asksecdef in any of your social media posts or you can send us an e-mail to asksecdef@mail.mil.  We are live here at the Pentagon, so hurry up and get those questions in so we can consider them.

Right now, though, we're going to go somewhere else.  We've been to Baghdad already, we've been to West Point.  We're going to go out to Quantico just down the road and speak to a brand new cadet well -- not a cadet, but he -- he just graduated his OCS school, so --

SEC. CARTER:  Great.

STAFF:  -- we're going to speak to 2nd Lt. Travis Crane.

And go ahead with your question for the secretary of Defense.

SEC. CARTER:  Congratulations, Travis.

Q:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Good morning and thank you for this opportunity.  As the tech sergeant said, my name is Second Lieutenant Travis Crane.

And my question for you, sir, is as a future naval aviator for the Marine Corps, what will the Defense Department's priorities be in aviation over the next five to 10 years when I will be a captain or a major?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I think for the Marine Corps, the biggest priority right now in Marine Corps aviation is to restore the readiness of what you have.  One of the reasons -- and that's been a subject of budget stability and also the fact that -- the op tempo of the Marine Corps.

So we are -- and General Neller, I think, has probably spoken to you about this.  We have some readiness gaps to make up that we're trying to make up.  That'll take some time as well as some money, but we're going to devote that to it.

But one of the reasons for that is that almost all of Marine Corps aviation, we're in the process of modernizing.  So what you're going to see as a Marine entering there is a new generation of rotary craft, continued V-22 Osprey.  Very importantly, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be entering the Marine Corps inventory.  It actually is in the Marine Corps inventory right now.

And I think the Marine Corps mission-wise is going to continue to have the -- it is the kind of ready-to-go force that is multi-capable.  That's its kind of comparative advantage within our family of military systems.  So the main thing you're going to see is a brand new family of airframes you're going to be flying. 

Do you have a particular one you're interested in?

Q:  Yes, sir.  Hopefully, the F-35.

SEC. CARTER:  You're going to like the F-35.  I was undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics once upon a time, which by the way, my kids used to say it was the most boring title.  They'd say, "Nobody knows what that is; why don't you be CIA director?"

(Laughter.)

All right.  As undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, I worked a lot on the F-35 and new programs, particularly big ones like that, always have lots of issues as they go along.  But it's really coming a long now.  You're going to like the F-35.

STAFF:  All right, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you.

And Lt. Crane, thank you for joining us here live.  We're at the Pentagon for the Worldwide Troop Talk with the secretary of defense.

And, you know, we've gone to these bases, and they pretty much stay where they are.  West Point doesn't move.  You know, Quantico doesn't move.  But we're going right now somewhere that does move.  We're going to a Navy ship.  We're going to the Zumwalt, and we have them on the phone.

SEC. CARTER:  All right.

STAFF:  So, please introduce yourself to the secretary.  And, you know, maybe tell him a little bit about what it's like to live on a ship, or, you know, if it's fun or not.  Go ahead with your question.

Q:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  I'm Petty Officer HT1 Stuart Simpson. 

I love being on the Zumwalt.  She's definitely the most advanced and awesome ship in the fleet right now. 

(Laughter.)

The question that I had, though, is you mentioned earlier that some people get out of the military to start a family or to help support it.  There's definitely some other reasons also.  Is there going to be an exit survey, if you will, to kind of figure out why people are getting out of the military and see if it can improve some processes or quality of life?

SEC. CARTER:  Amen to that.  The question is about exit surveys.  And yes, we need to do them.  It's one of the aspects of the transition programs that are now new.  One of them is -- their principal purpose is to help service members who are leaving to find a future that is worthy of the excellence of the people we have. 

And if I can just divert a little bit.  One of the things I'm very proud of in our country is people love to hire veterans.  And that wasn't true -- believe me, I was back -- I grew up in the Vietnam era.  It was -- that was different and heartbreaking, just the attitudes towards us then.

The attitudes are completely different now.  They know how good you are.  That's nice, because it means you get good jobs if you leave.  I don't always like it, because it means good people leave.  They're hiring away good people, so it's a two-edged sword to me.

But one of the things we do as people leave is say why, and try to learn from that.  Now, it may seem silly that it's taken us so long to getting around to doing that.  But it's part of another part of the force of the future, which is to apply modern personnel and talent management techniques to us.

That's one of the things I'm trying to do.  We can't use everything that the outside world uses, because we're not a business, right?  We're the profession of arms.  But there are things that they do that make sense for us.  So that is one.

Another one is giving recruiters feedback.  How did your guys do?  They didn't used to get that.  They'd put them in the pipe and then they couldn't connect what they saw at the recruiting station to the ultimate result.  Well, how do you know -- how do you adjust your game if you don't have that kind of data?

We're trying to do LinkedIn-type social media that allow you to look for opportunities in your service and your -- (inaudible) -- to look for good matches, in the same way they do it in the outside world, rather than this paper system, and you go in and you ask, and you -- and we can do things better that way.

We can make better use of you; get you to stick with us.  Or if you're leaving, at least know why you're leaving.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.  You know, you mentioned earlier that we want these people to stay, and you're putting programs in place, but what if those aren't the programs they're looking for?  So it's good to have that information.

SEC. CARTER:  That's why it's important to hear -- hear from people.  You sit down and you say, "Will you tell me what's important?"  If I can just -- I was talking about recruiters.  I was up talking to some recruiters up in the Northeast a little while ago.  I -- I learned so much.  They just -- I'd say tell me what your issues are.  And I'll give you some examples.

They said, "Well, you know, you really ought to take a look at the tattoo policy."  Oh, hadn't thought about that.  Well, you know, kids just get tattoos and they show up at the recruiting station - nothing wrong with them.  Otherwise, they'd be great people, but they don't meet our tattoo policy -- that kind of, well, I don't know what to do about that, but I'm looking into -- into that.

There are -- I -- I continue to want to make sure that we're tapping into the entire population.  We're not -- I talked about women, for example.  That's half of our population.  I'd be a fool not to be looking for qualified people in half of the population.

Likewise, geography -- we're not in all geographies evenly.  It's just a fact of our country.  Some places contribute more kids to the military than other places, even though these other places have perfectly qualified kids.  So why is that?  How can I change that dynamic?

Well, you go into schools.  You talk to principals.  You try to get them -- and some of them, they didn't serve, so they don't know.  And the kid doesn't have a father or an uncle or a mom or anyone who served.  So how are they to know what a cool thing this is to do with your life?

You've got to somehow connect.  And I'm -- I'm looking for every way we -- I want to be out there as a prime opportunity for young people.  And then, of course, we get to pick, which is a great, great, great thing.  We pick the best, and we do.  And that's what I have here in front of me.

STAFF:  All right, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you for that.  I know when I joined, I was kind of clueless on what the military was going to have for me.  So I think that's -- I'll be excited to see how that works out.

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER:  Well, somebody did a good job talking you into it.  So we're delighted.

(Laughter.)

STAFF:  Thank you -- thank you, sir.

All right.  We are going to go now to Grafenwoehr, Germany.  And earlier, there is kind of a delay on here.  It's about seven seconds, so hopefully they'll be able to hear us, and it won't be too long of a delay.  But Specialist (Adrian Liaku ?), go ahead with your question, please.

Q:  Hello, sir.  My name is Spc. Adrian Lyakhu.  I'm with 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Grafenwoehr, Germany.  Thank you for this opportunity.

The Army -- the Army has been issued some budget cuts.  What is DOD doing to make sure that our readiness is not compromised?

SEC. CARTER:  Good -- good question.  And Grafenwoehr's a good place to ask it from, because that's one of our premier readiness training facilities in Europe, so good on you for -- for -- for being -- being there and helping make that place run.

That is the Army's and General Milley's and my top priority for the Army is readiness.  He said that, I've said that.  For the general reason I gave before, but also because in addition to the fact that it's just -- it's our -- our fundamental commitment to you.  

For the Army especially, the challenge of readiness is this; for 15 years, we were in major counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we devoted the entirety of Army end-strength to those missions.  Now, we are pivoting strategically to a wider spectrum of threats and the need for full spectrum training.  And so -- (inaudible) -- training by itself won't do.  We need to do so-called "high-end" training as well.

That takes time, and one of the places it's done is Grafenwoehr.  Another place that it's done is at Nellis.  And they only have so many slots per year, right, for rotating units through.  So what General Milley and I are doing is we're putting all the money that we can, but it takes some time to get everybody through the training pipeline for the Army.  

So that -- but that is the Army's biggest challenge, is this strategic transition from the last 15 years to the future, and it's not helped by all this budget instability, which is one of the reason why I -- I'm pleading for Washington to end -- end gridlock in that area.  

All the services have different issues with readiness.  The Marine Corps -- we talked about the Marine Corps aviation, that's -- that's General Neller's and my biggest priority for the Marine Corps and -- (inaudible) -- go through all the services, they're all different.  But you've hit it exactly, Adrian, on the head for the Army.  But what you're doing there is an important part of fixing it.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you so much for that.

And Specialist Lyakhu, hopefully that answered your question as well.

If you still have a question for the secretary of Defense, we are live here at the Pentagon, so hopefully we can squeeze it in.  Just use that #asksecdef to make sure that it gets considered for the rest of the show.

Right now, though, we are going to take a social question.  They've been using those hashtags out there, so we've got plenty of them.  This one is from Erika Slayton King.  "I'm hoping you'll speak on the Force of the Future initiatives aimed at retaining the best and brightest, specifically to retaining dual military couples.  What specific policies do you hope to establish DOD-wide to improve the lives and retention of dual couples?"

SEC. CARTER:  Good -- good question.  I told you earlier, our force is a married force.  It is also a married to one another force to -- in a -- to a very high level compared to the rest of society, which is great.

However, it creates the obvious problem, which is the you-go-here and you-go-there problem, and then what do the -- but then there's a kid in the picture as well, so how does this -- this work out.  And that was indeed one of the things, Erika, that I've already announced as part of the Force of the Future, but there'll be more.  But let me just recap that.

I have given the services the flexibility to take into account the fact of married couples in onward assignments.  There's a quid pro quo for that, though, which is they get to ask you to do more in return for that flexibility.  I think that's a good deal.  I think that's a deal that will -- the services try to manage their people and deploy people where they need to. (inaudible)  can work with that and that'll give dual military families the opportunity for stability for -- particularly in those key years when you've got little kids and it's hard to move around.

And you know, some people have somebody, a grandparent, and you're lucky if that's the case.  But if you don't have a grandparent around or something and you're just stuck and we don't want you stuck, because that's a two-fold win for us.  It's a (inaudible) for us if we get to keep a couple.  But we've got to work at it, and that's one of those ways we've got to be flexible.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I know there are probably a lot of people watching right now who were concerned with the answer to that question.  You mentioned --

SEC. CARTER:  Yeah, well, I mean, it's -- it's a great thing about our force.  I think it's a great strength.  But it's a problem when it comes to -- for deployment time.  We've got to -- we've got to be flexible, and so I've given people the authority to work with them and not just say you go there, you go there, that's the rule, too bad, you don't like, it, quit or one of you quit.

STAFF:  Thank you for that.  My husband's active duty.  He's probably watching right now, so hi.  But --

SEC. CARTER:  And they don't have to be both military.  I mean, people work so spouse works or they want to work and they say, oh geez, I just got my degree or my certification to work in this place or I just got a job, I really like it and now they're sending you somewhere else.  And so we've got to -- we've got to deal with this real world situation if we want really good people.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

That was a great question and we will hope to get some more questions for you for the rest of the show.  But right now, we're going to go to Kabul.  We went to Baghdad earlier.  We're going to go out to Kabul, Afghanistan, the beautiful dusty Kabul, Afghanistan with Senior Airman Sully Luepke.

Go ahead with your question for the secretary of defense.

Q:  Secretary Carter, recapitalization of the Afghan air force has been a big topic of interest for Train Advise Assist Command-Air.  What do you think the recapitalization of the Afghan air force will look like if it happens?

SEC. CARTER:  I don't think it's an “if,” it's going to happen.  It's got to happen.  And so we have a plan for it and good on you for being there in Kabul.  I've been there many, many times -- it is a beautiful city, but we have spent a long time there and a lot of talent, like you see up there on the screen trying to get the Afghans to be able to be in a position to secure their own country so it never again becomes a place from which attacks on America are launched.

And -- so that's been our project for a long time.  It's the project that Sully is working on over there.

One of the things -- and we do lots of things.  We train them.  Their ground forces -- we give them vehicles, we give them weapons and artillery.  And so -- and we continue to help them, advise and assist them.  But we're trying to make them more and more self-sufficient.  One of the things they have to be able to do is close air support for themselves.  For a long time, we provided all that close air support.  

As we lessen our involvement and get them to do more, they need to do more of their own close air support.  That is both rotary wing and fixed wing.  And yeah, we have a plan for -- for rotary wing, which is based upon the H-60 and for fixed wing, which is based on the A-29.  Both of those programs are going forward and Afghans are trained.  They're actually flying A-29s too, sometimes we're flying alongside of them just to help them improve their proficiency.  And in addition, we work with them on lift.  

And one thing Sully probably knows, but just so you all know, because you're all so used to something that we take so deadly seriously, which is that if you're ever hurt, we're on you fast and get you to the best medical attention fast.  Not everybody can promise their armed forces that, and the Afghans -- you know, they really want that.

So when you talk about not just close air support, but lift -- rotary wing lift, fixed wing lift -- bringing someone to a medical facility, returning the fallen to their homes, these are big deals for anybody.  And they are for the Afghans as well, so it's one of the ways we're -- we're helping them.  And as time goes on, we'll be doing less and they'll be doing more to the point where they'll have -- be able to secure their own country.  Let's good for us because we don't want it to become a place from which America is attacked.

STAFF:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And thank you, Airman Luepke for joining us on the live worldwide troop talk with the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

And we've still got a little bit more time, so if you want to try to get that question in there, use that #asksecdef and hopefully we can get it considered for the rest of the show.  We do have a few more questions left for you.

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.

STAFF:  One of them -- we're going out to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam.  It's very beautiful out there.

SEC. CARTER:  It is.

STAFF:  They weren't able to be live on the show today so they -- they sent in their question ahead of time.

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.

STAFF:  So it is a recorded question.  So we'll go ahead and play that for you.

(BEING VIDEO CLIP)

Q:  I'm (inaudible) from Anderson Air Force Base.

Extending maternity leave is part of your new family policies.  What are some other family benefits we could look forward to?  And when can we expect them to come into effect?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEC. CARTER:  I'll give you -- they are going into effect immediately basically, it's a matter of just making the (inaudible).  That's pretty fast.

So the maternity leave I discussed already.  Paternity leave is another one.  I'll just name a few other -- another one is childcare hours.  Again, for families, we found that the childcare hours didn't really match the work hours, which doesn't make a lot of sense.  So you have this awkward situation where you're supposed to be at work at the very moment that the day care center just opening up, so how are you supposed to get so fast from there to here?  And so extending on both ends in accordance with the work day and giving some flexibility there.

Another one is nursing rooms.  It doesn't seem like a big deal, but is a big deal if you're nursing.  And -- so finding a place that people can have privacy to do that and it's understood and so forth.

These are the ways that we're constantly trying to listen to what the real world situation of our people is and tune into it, and make sure that we don't have yesterday's policies or yesterday's practices and we just haven't paid any attention to it.  And I find everywhere in the force of the future that -- in that effort that it's – it is so easy to find things that if you just listen, they make perfect sense, they're not hard for us to do and they're going to make a big difference in our service member's lives.

So I'm committed to keeping that going and I'm sure that it'll keep going in the future as well because everybody in this department, including my successors and my successor's successor will know that our people is what make us the finest and we all have a commitment to the future, not just the present.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And hopefully, that answered the question. 

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. CARTER:  There's a lot more.  There's education, training, dual military families and on and on and on and on.  There's a -- there's a whole lot of stuff here.  Basically all aspects of the lives of service members at any potential stage of their service with us, right up through transition and the life after military service.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you.

And hopefully, that answered a few questions that are on everybody's mind, but if anybody in the audience has a question, we're going to go ahead and take one.  So please stand up and get a microphone and introduce yourself to the secretary of defense.

Q:  Morning, Mr. Secretary.  My name's Spc. Stevens.  I'm with HHC INSCOM.  I'm a human resource specialist at Fort Belvoir.

And my question for you is with the current budget cuts, and as you said issue with the budget not being finalized yet, what are your plans for modernizing cyber defenses amongst the various services?

SEC. CARTER:  Good question.  And it's not going to be so much a matter of money, actually.  It's more a matter of finding the right people, and this is true in all the services.

We are of -- we're not short of resources.  It's not a huge part of the budget.  It's a high, high priority for us, so it is not really being as affected as other parts of the budget by the instability we've seen, gridlock.

It's really a people thing.  And I'll tell you this, and this is something that we're working on here, which is what do we think the right force structure is in cyber in the future.  What's the right way to do this?  We have made a start in each of the services and in CYBERCOM, and I think we're doing a great job.  But if you look down the road, you say what mix of military, civilian, contractor is going to be the right mix for cyber.

We need military people because they're the only ones that can do intrinsically military tasks, so you have to have a uniform on to do that.  So we need them, who are good.  But we won't necessarily get all the talent -- access to all the talent, so there's -- there are companies out there that are doing interest things in cyber.  They're not in the Defense Department, but we want to have access to them and to their talent, so we want to be able to do that as well.

So we're thinking through what the force structure should be.  It's going to have a military core, like everything else we do.  But we're trying to decide what's the best human resources strategy, since that's what you do, for the cyber force writ large, and that's something that Chairman Dunford and I are working on.

Q:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.  Good question.

STAFF:  Yes, thank you for the question from the audience.  We are live here at the Pentagon, so keep with us.  We've got a few more minutes left with the secretary right now.

We did talk about military aviation earlier, we heard from the Marines.  So we're going to hear from the Marines again.  We're going to go out to Miramar, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.  

SEC. CARTER:  All right.

STAFF:  So go ahead with your question for the secretary of defense.

Q:  Secretary Carter, good morning.  Captain Henning out here in Miramar.

Given the growing complexity of communications, weapons systems, cyber warfare, do you anticipate a need to lengthen the standard enlistment for service members to allow for lengthened classroom times, skill development, MOS progression, once they’re in the operating forces?  And if we do so, how can we incentivize these highly trained personnel to remain in the armed forces?

SEC. CARTER:  Good.  Well, yes, and we have to.  The yes part is that we are -- a very high priority for me.  It gets back to the need in our world for our people to be kept up to date in the course of their careers.  Because the strategic landscape changes, technology changes, best practices change.  And we need to be at the forefront of all that throughout the service member's career.

And one of the things, quite frankly, that I don't think we do a very good job of is weighting education and training as a contributor to a career.  Too often, it's viewed as sort of a side -- "Oh, you got to go to school; lucky you; you got out of the operating force for a year; I hope you had a good time; now get back to work."

And that's not the right attitude to have towards -- we need to have the attitude that a service member continues to progress throughout their career.  Their training is never over.  Their advancement is never over.  And it's not a break to go to something that's professional education, whether it's either within our walls or we send you outside our walls.

It's good for us.  And it's -- and our personnel managers need to start looking at it that way.  I foot stomp that because sometimes it is regarded as maybe a vacation, but at worst, a dead end to go to school.  That's ridiculous.  

STAFF:  Thank you.  And hopefully that answered your question out at Miramar.

So we did get a few more questions from people using that #asksecdef -- so we're going to go Twitter right now to see what they have for us.  

This is from Jmeyer1016:  Now that the NFL is in full swing, who's your favorite football team – hashtag please say Bengals.

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER:  I my wife's fantasy football team is the only answer I'd give you.

(Laughter.)

She is --

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF:  Good answer.  Yes.

SEC. CARTER:  I can tell when things are going well.  I can tell when things aren't going well.  That's -- I've got to root for it to go well.

STAFF:  All right.  You could give my husband some pointers.

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. CARTER:  Easy question.

STAFF:  We're a house divided.

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.

(Laughter.)

She's -- Steph is hugely – more knowledgeable than I am.

STAFF:  All right.  Well, thank you for that.  And hopefully, that answered his question, and lightened up the mood a little bit.

We are going to head out now.  This is a prerecorded question from Yokosuka, Japan.  So take a look, please.

Q:  Hi, sir.  My name is RP2 Janier Matos coming to you from Yokosuka, Japan.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about veteran suicide.  In my work and working with chaplains, I see that suicide is a real thing in our active duty component.  Our Navy continues to undergo manpower cuts and our sailors are having to do more with less.  Shouldn't we look again on how doing more with less is affecting our people?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, yes.  And suicide prevention is a really big deal to me.  The rates are not acceptable.  No, not one is acceptable.  The other thing that's, to get to your question, is suicide is preventable.  All the doctors will tell you that.  All the experts will say that.  All the chaplains will tell you that.  We -- this is something we can prevent.  And we -- and we -- but the only way you can prevent it is by working together.  

In the health care system, first of all, we have recognized and we spent a -- we very much increased the funding for mental health treatment, because, you know, we had a tradition of not really recognizing mental health issues as -- they're real health issues.  And they deserve treatment, just like anything else.  There should be no stigma associated with getting yourself treated and we should have enough treatment specialists and facilities to do it.  So that's thing one.

Thing two in prevention is, and all the experts will tell you this.  By the way, it is suicide prevention month, so bear that in mind, and this is a reminder to all of you of what your responsibility is if you're not a health care provider.  We've all got to watch out for each other.  And that's true of any conduct issue at all.  We owe it to our brothers and sisters in arms to watch out for them.

And you can tell.  You know, look at somebody.  If things don't look right, you've got to -- don't stand there and then later day, "Dammit, I thought there was something wrong and I didn't do anything, and look what happened."  You know, it's not -- it doesn't take a big risk to say to somebody, "Hey, are you okay?  You know, I see you're -- I'm looking at your social media and you're saying a lot of really sad stuff here.  Are you okay?"

And help them pull it together.  It is loneliness and isolation which continues to lead them down that path to destroying themselves.  And it doesn't have to happen, but you really can play a role.  Just put your antennas up and help out people if they're in trouble.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for that -- a very important topic and it needed to be addressed.  So thank you for that question.

Right now, we're going to hopefully lighten the mood up just a little bit.  We have a very special question for you.  And this is kind of a surprise, so please take a look at the monitor.  It's super important, super important.  So take a look at the monitor for the question.

(Laughter.)

Q:  My question for Defense Secretary Carter, it would be:  Do you like the movie "Rambo" as much as I do?  Because the answer is nobody likes the movie "Rambo" as much as I do.

(Laughter.)

SEC. CARTER:  Half of the answer -- the other part is nobody likes "Rocky" like I do.  I'm a Philly boy.  I grew up on "Rocky."  I watch it again and again and again and again.

(Laughter.)

Did you ever go up the stairs -- (inaudible)?  Everybody --

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

SEC. CARTER:  -- all go right up the stairs of the art museum, turn around and go -- dance on the top, you know, in our gray sweat pants and -- a great, great movie.  Great city, too, by the way.  

Are you a Philadelphian?

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. CARTER:  Okay.  You don't have to be from Philadelphia to love "Rocky," but it helps.

(Laughter.)

STAFF:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And of course, thank you to Chris Pratt for taking the time to record that message during his USO tour.

Right now, we do have time for one more question.  This is an e-mail question that came in using that hashtag.  So this is from Phillip Hochstaffl:   As a Ph.D. student in Germany at the German Aerospace Center, I want to know if and where there are opportunities in the DOD for highly qualified, non-U.S. citizens to contribute to the force of the future.

SEC. CARTER:  That's a good question.  That is a good question. 

There are opportunities.  We have long had a tradition of having people who become U.S. citizens or are in other ways able to serve with us.  It's another way that we attract talent.  And so we're open to anybody -- now, of course, you have to meet our standards, you have to meet our rules and so forth, but there -- that does not automatically exclude you. 

And of course, we have lots and lots of people who are first generation Americans in service and a lot of people who work with our bases and installations.  And there's a bigger point in all of this.

One of the things I'm really proud of about you, all of you, is everywhere I go around the world, foreign leaders say, you know what, we really like your people, our military loves working with Americans.  It's not just that they're good at what they do, it's that they're decent and that they stand for good values and that they conduct themselves in a very decent way.

You have a reputation for that.  That makes me incredibly proud and it's the reason why we have a lot of friends around the world.  And if you look at our enemies, they don't have any friends.  The United States does.  We have allies and partners all over the world in everything we're doing.  Why is that?  It's not just because we're good, it's also because of what we stand for.  And we stand for things that other people want to stand for with us.

And so when I hear somebody who wants to serve us and isn't -- I hear that all the time.  Now, some of them aren't asking to join us, some of them are just asking to be our allies and partners.  But it's a great strength of our country that we have all these friends and allies.  And it's -- it leads to just that kind of spirit, I'd like to work with you, because -- you know, look, giving -- getting up every morning, like you all do, and being part of protecting our people so our citizens can get up in the morning, they take their kids to school, they go to work and they live their lives, they dream their dreams.

Why do they get to do that?  They can only do that if they're safe, and we provide that safety that allows people to live their lives.  There's no more important or noble mission than the one you have, and there are a lot of good people around the world who want to be part of that goodness that provides security.  And so that's yet another reason why I'm proud of y'all.  And the question just signifies that.

STAFF:  All right.  Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being here today.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

STAFF:  That is all the time that we have with the secretary of defense today.  We heard a lot of great questions from all over the world, including a Navy ship and a Marine Corps base and we just went everywhere.  So I just want to thank everybody who's watching in our audience here live at the Pentagon and who's watching on defense.gov and on AFN overseas.

Thank you for joining us, and ladies and gentleman --

SEC. CARTER:  Can I just say one more thing, Holly?

STAFF:  Yes, go ahead.

SEC. CARTER:  First of all --

STAFF:  Please.  This is your show.

SEC. CARTER:  -- thank you, Holly. 

(Laughter.)

Well, I just want to say to everybody who's watching this now or in the future, I -- we sit here every day, and I can speak for General Dunford, the chairman, my partner in this and everybody in this building -- so proud of you.  It gives me just enormous pride myself to lead an institution as fine as this.  And it's the people who make it so.

So when you go home tonight and you're talking to your family or something like that, you just double-down on the fact that this country is incredibly lucky to have you and we are so proud of you.  I think about you all day, every day.  You're everything to me and I couldn't be associated with a better group of people than our folks in uniform.

STAFF:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you for those kind words.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

STAFF:  And again, thank you to everybody here watching and those watching on AFN and around the world.  And behalf of the Defense Media Activity, I'm Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis.  And the 25th Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, thank you.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)