Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Force of the Future Event at The City College of New York in New York City

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter


 

      SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Thanks, Cadet Reynolds.  And good morning, everybody.

 

      What a beautiful, spectacular place.  Thank you.  Thanks to CCNY for letting me be here this morning.  This is an institution that was founded to educate the sons and daughters of this great city of New York, a city which has given so much to our military over the years as well.

 

      It's been home of some of the most iconic moments in our military history.  In the months after we declared independence in 1776, we learned here for the first time to fight together as a nation -- the battles of Brooklyn and Harlem Heights and Washington Heights.

 

      And in the centuries that followed its birth, it showcased vital elements of our military power, from civil iron-clads and World War I and II battleships built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, to the service members, ships and airplanes that fill New York's streets, seaports and skies each Fleet Week.

 

      Over the years and moments of triumph and tragedy alike, whether ticker-tape parades honoring generals, admirals, astronauts and veterans or the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11, this city has been etched into the collective heart and the collective memory of our country and those who defend it.

 

      Given this history, it's no surprise that many New Yorkers have contributed to the security of this country, including students of CCNY.  Such as Colin Powell, who was a cadet here in the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, which celebrates its 110th birthday this year, a reason why I'm here.  And Colin rose to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

      Bob Kahn, who co-invented the internet while working at our Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA.  And also, the ROTC cadets here today from across the City University of New York will soon be joining the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

 

      We have that force today because of people.  More than anything else, they're the reason why we're the best.  But we can't take that excellence for granted.  And as generations change and technologies change, labor markets change, it's my job as secretary of Defense to build what I call the Force of the Future, to ensure that we keep competing for top talent in the years ahead to build a force that's just as excellent as the men and women serving our country around the world today.

 

      And that's why I've come to CCNY this morning.

     

      America has a lot of strengths and our future's very bright.  Our economy's growing, we have world-class universities like this one and we also have the strongest military.  But another strength we have is all of the students here.  That generation is incredibly talented.  It's diverse, it's innovative, it's tech-friendly.  Many of you are interested in public service, whether it's in government, schools, non-profits or volunteering in your community.

 

      But one opportunity that many CCNY students, including some of you, may not have considered is serving our country by serving in the military, and that's what I want to talk to you about today, how we're not only making military service more attractive but also a place where you can maximize your talent and skills while doing one of the noblest things a person can do; defend our country and leave a better world for our children.

 

      Shortly after I was sworn in as secretary of Defense, I went to my old high school in Pennsylvania to outline this vision of the Force of the Future.  I told the students there how we in the Pentagon have to think outside of our five-sided box to make ourselves even better at attracting talent from new generations of Americans.

 

      In the months that followed, I traveled the country, hearing from companies like LinkedIn and Facebook and Boeing and more, and also from our own innovative troops and military leaders about what they're all doing to compete for talent in the 21st century and what we can learn from them to improve our own talent management.

 

      And over the last year, we've done a lot.  I've announced four different links to this Force of the Future, and that's just the beginning.  Each of these are constantly being updated and they’re our agenda for making sure that we have -- continue to have the finest fighting force.

 

      I announced the first link a year ago this month, creating what I called at that time on-ramps -- new on-ramps and new off-ramps.  New on-ramps so more people outside of DOD can come in for a while and contribute to our mission.  Maybe just for one project, maybe just for a time.  And new off-ramps so more people who are in our military can spend some time at a leading university or a leading company to gain skills that they can bring back into our force, make us better.

 

      The next link focused on increasing retention by supporting military families at the critical time of their life where they've proven their worth to us.  We've invested heavily in -- in them, and that's the time in which many of them are thinking about having a family.  And this may not be top of mind for many of CCNY students yet, but you should know that the majority of our force is married and families are a big factor when our people decide whether to stick with us or not. 

 

      We can't change the fundamentals of military service, but wherever possible, we want to make it easier for our best people to stay.  So we've expanded maternity and paternity leave, extended childcare hours on base and we're offering more military families the possibility of staying in the community where they're stationed a bit longer before being reassigned in exchange for a few more years of service.

 

      The third link focused on military talent management, especially for officers and how they're promoted.  As some of you may know, our traditions and our systems go back a long way, and it's a good thing.  But because how we do this hasn't changed much in a long time, in some ways, it's become too rigid, most importantly for the needs of our military leaders, but also for the career aspirations of our service members.

 

      So we're making it possible to infuse some more flexibility in choice, continuing to make sure that our merit-based promotion system accounts for performance and talent as much as possible.

 

      And most recently, link number four to the Force of the Future focused on civilian talent management.  You may not know, while we have over two million service members in uniform, we also have 700,000 civilians.  These are people who fix our planes, build our ships, staff our wonderful scientific laboratories and more.

 

      And not everyone will choose to serve in uniform and we have critical jobs for people and civilians.  There may be some in this room that find and apply for them. By directly hiring civilians on college campuses, which we're now able to do -- just made that change -- without the long waits for a job offer that make it near impossible for us to be their first choice as well as by expanding scholarship for service programs in science and technology fields and more.

 

      In addition to all these links, over the last year we also opened all combat positions in all four military services to women.  And we also lifted DOD's ban on transgender service members.  All with a goal of being able to draw from 100 percent of America's population for our all-volunteer force.  Focusing purely on a person's willingness and ability to serve our country and contribute to our mission.

 

      And we've doubled down on our pledge to help our service members transition to veteran status when they move on to whatever's next for them in life so that they can succeed in every way possible.  All this is necessary to help us compete for top talent in the future.  But it's not sufficient.

 

      Today our military and our troops are popular and they're widely supported by the American people.  And I very much appreciate that, because I remember a time when it was different.  But because of all the success of the all-volunteer force it is because we don't use a draft anymore, we haven't for 40 years.  Many Americans have become less familiar with us.  Indeed in surveys and focus groups we run, almost half of young Americans tell us they have little or no knowledge about military service.  And this may be related to trends we've been seeing recently in military recruiting both in terms of where our recruits come from and also where their parents served -- whether their parents served.

 

      Geographically first, our military's recruiting pool is shrinking.  More and more of our people coming from fewer and fewer states.  Today, young Americans from rural areas are two times more likely to join the military than young Americans from urban areas.  And 40 percent of those who join the military come from just six states, including New York.  Most of our officers come from northern states while the vast majority of our enlisted force comes from southern states.

 

      At the moment military recruiting tends to be most successful in the South, the Southwest, big sky country, and most difficult in the Northeast.  And that's paradoxical since the Northeast is among the regions with the highest percentage of young Americans who have the qualifications to serve.

 

      So these geographic gaps represent an opportunity -- a great opportunity for us to draw talent from places where we haven't been.  Same time, the military is also starting to resemble something of a family business as those with a parent who served in uniform are almost twice as likely to join the military as those whose didn't.

 

      Now to be clear, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Following in the footsteps of one parent -- one's parents or grandparents is a long and noble tradition in the military.  And here it may be happening because people are having positive experiences in the military and their kids see it as something that may be good for them, too.  And all that's good, but it also means that there are talented kids out there who would make great service members, but they don't have a parent showing them this opportunity.  Consider that in terms of pure numbers.  Consider that less than one percent of America's population serves in uniform.

 

      From my generation and my parent's generation, three in four family members served in the military.  For your generation it's one in three.  So, unless someone has a friend or a family member who's serving, they are most likely to see our military movies like "American Sniper," or video games like "Call of Duty," or TV commercials featuring wounded warriors or troops coming home.  And while all these images are somewhat true, they're only a slice of our military's jobs, lives and stories, which in reality are as impressive, and as varied as more than two million men and women serving in uniform today.

 

      Over the last decade or so, this has even contributed to new misconceptions and stereotypes about military life among younger Americans.  For example, some tell us they think military life is incompatible with having a family, when the truth is, 52 percent of our enlisted force is married, and 70 percent of our office corps -- officer corps is married.  These are both much greater percentages than in the population as a whole.

 

      Some people even told us they think there's a penalty in the military for getting pregnant.  It's not only false; in fact, we now offer 12 weeks paid maternity leave for a new mother serving in uniform.  Also, polls are show that young Americans today are 30 percent less likely than they were 10 years ago to think joining the military would let them earn money for college, yet the reality is the exact opposite.  And that -- and that -- during that very time, 10 years, the G.I. Bill has helped over 2.3 million veterans pay for college, and 120,000 have benefited from ROTC scholarships.

 

      And less than half of young Americans today -- survey show -- think that the active duty military has people like them in it, despite the fact that we have people from all walks of life in our ranks.  And no matter who you are, who you love, who look like, or where your parents came from, if you're able and willing to serve, and meet our high standards, we give you a full and equal opportunity to do so.

 

      The bottom line is, that because we too often talk about sacrifice alone, which is no small thing, we probably don't spend enough time highlighting the opportunities that exist, and the fulfillment one has from achieving excellence and doing the service of your country.

 

      No one should gloss over the hardships or dangers of military life.  But our service members would be among the first to tell you how proud they feel to wear a uniform; how much they've learned and grown, and how it feels to wake up every morning to contribute something to bigger -- bigger than yourself.

 

      We're going to ensure we keep recruiting top talent in future generations.  We want to puncture these stereotypes and help our fellow citizens get to know today's military for what it really is, even if they don't have a parent, or neighbor, or coach, or a friends who served.  And in terms of where and how we recruit, we'll be missing an opportunity, if we kept fishing in only the same geographic ponds we are now.  We need to seize that opportunity by fishing in more ponds, new ponds, ponds we haven't been in, in a long time.  We have to draw talent from our country's entire pool of population for our all volunteer force.

 

      The first step is identifying the importance of this effort, and this a big reason why I came here to give this speech, where I speak about this all the time, all the while we're engaged around the world, protecting our country and confronting our enemies.  Nevertheless, never take my eye off this, because if we're going to help an entire generation better understand who we are and what we're about, one speech isn't enough.

 

      It requires a comprehensive effort across the department, and this is our focus.  Let me take a few minute to tell you -- tell you what we're planning to do.  And these are new things.

 

      First, we're going to start communicating better how, or the value of military life, telling our story in more places, more ways and to a broader range of audiences across the country.  Well, we plan to do through that through several different avenues, I want to tell you about a few.

 

      First, we're going to change how we highlight our mission through advertising.  There's a long history of advertising for military service from the century old, I want you posters of Uncle Sam, to the commercials you see on primetime and network TV.  These ad campaigns are meant to get potential recruits to sign up so that the military services can meet the recruiting needs.  They get people in the door and help the services build a brand that sets them apart from others.  And all that's good, but they sometimes highlight only a narrow slice of the institution and people who defend this country every day.

 

      Although the Defense Department used to advertise the value of military life as a whole, we got away from that over the last several years.  In some ways, we're a victim of our success with so many people signing up after 9/11 and the Great Recession.  Now we're getting back into it.  I mean we're starting to advertise the value of military life and public service again in the service's recruiting ads.

 

      In doing so, we're going to reach out and talk to American people wherever they are.  Which as you know, isn't just on TV anymore but increasingly in different places online.  And we won't just speak to potential recruits, we're going to speak to everyone, including parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, guidance counselors and more who might influence a potential recruit.  To truly have an affect, this has to be done in a sustained way and over a long period of time.

 

      We won't be selling the newest phones or trying to get you signed up for the newest credit card.  Ultimately what we're selling is service and mission, a chance to be part, as I said, of something bigger than yourself that will not only do something good for you, but that you serve others.  And then after you've served, go on to do something great with the rest of your life like so many of our veterans do.

 

      Now since advertising can't fully substitute for personal inspiration to contact, we're also going to create a DOD speaker's bureau of senior leaders and experts from across our military and defense department dedicated to help educating key audiences.  Schools, parents, teachers, principles, coaches, career counselors, civic groups, cultural groups, youth groups, companies and more on the value and benefits of military public service in support of our mission of national defense.

 

      And I'm the first speaker to sign up and I'm kicking that off right here, today.  In addition, we're going to try to better leverage our most successful outreach programs and also help -- that already help people give back to America's communities.

 

      One example is called Starbase, where our service members volunteer in local elementary schools and help inspire kids to explore and learn more about science, technology, engineering and math.  And that allows us to help them but also allows those little kids to get to know us in a hands-on way, and we want to have more of that opportunity in both directions.

 

      Similarly, we're also going to do some important new things to help each of the services improve their recruiting efforts to increase our access geographically, demographically and generationally.

 

      For example, I've heard from some of our recruiters that some high schools aren't giving them the access they feel they need to be able to do their jobs.  Now the law requires schools to give our recruiters a basic level of access, and while it seems many schools are complying with that, recognizing the DOD might offer their students an exciting and impactful careers, some others are putting up roadblocks.  This is wrong.

 

      So as part of a new program to help recruiters, we're gonna survey them and identify where exactly they face impediments to access and what the most useful types of access actually are so we can educate those educators who may not be complying with the law or who may be making life harder on their students and recruiters and find a way to improve that.

 

      Our goal here is to better educate schools about our mission and help them realize they should want to let us in because it'd be a missed opportunity for their students if they don't.

 

      Our services are also gonna be experimenting with having their recruiters be more mobile, leveraging technologies so they can recruit across a wider geographic areas.  And they'll also review some of the benchmarks kids currently have to meet in order to join the military.

 

      When I was in Boston earlier this year, I sat down with some of our fantastic enlisted recruiters from all over the Northeast.  And they told me some of the challenges they were facing with spectacular potential recruits who nevertheless also reflect the times in relation to such benchmarks as their current physical fitness, tattoos they got when they were younger, single parenthood and the like.

 

      Now, some of these things we'll never be able to compromise on.  We'll always have to maintain high standards.  At the same time, these benchmarks must be kept relevant for both today's force and tomorrow's, meaning we have to ensure that they're not unnecessarily restrictive.  So we're gonna review and update these standards as appropriate.

 

      And this brings me to another way we bring talented people into the military.  In fact, right here, right now.  And that's through our Reserve Officer Training Corps program, ROTC, located on campuses around the country.  Forty percent of our officers come from ROTC.  It's also a key part of helping those who may not have been exposed to us before getting to know us.

 

      This is ROTC's 100th anniversary and because DOD's a learning organization and we're always trying to improve, it stands to reason that we should use this anniversary to examine ROTC.  How can we make it even better?  And that's what our sixth link to the Force of the Future's all about, preparing ROTC for another 100 years of success.

 

      There's no question that ROTC's had its ups and downs over the last century.  But today, it's a very successful program, and CCNY is proof of that.  CCNY enrolled its first Army ROTC student in 1917, 99 years ago, the first year of the program, making it one of the first programs in the whole country.  And it was subsequently a mainstay ROTC school until 1971, when the faculty senate voted to cut ties with the military to protest the Vietnam War, as many other colleges and universities did at the time.

 

      ROTC didn't return until after Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed a few years ago, which allowed gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly.  And since ROTC came back to CCNY in 2013, cadets graduating from here have gone on to assignments in exciting fields, like cyber and military intelligence.  Serve all places all around the world; South Korea, Japan, Middle East.

 

      Now, we want to make sure that these detachments are able to thrive, help more people on these campuses to get to know us, and thereby help us attract talent to contribute to our mission.  We plan to do this by focusing on those who participate in ROTC and those who lead it and on the program overall.

 

      Now, to make sure ROTC keeps attracting great participants like Cadet Reynolds, your instructors here also will be offering more graduate school scholarships especially for law school and medical school for students who are college seniors.

 

      We'll also offer more two and three year ROTC scholarships, which will make it easier for someone who maybe didn't know about ROTC at first, but will be able to participate nevertheless and serve if they learn about it maybe from a roommate or a teammate or a classmate once they get to campus.

 

      We're going to sponsor more high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to shadow ROTC cadets at schools that specialize in those fields to help them open their eyes to how ROTC's worth a try, and to reward cadets that challenge themselves academically.

 

      For example, if they choose a more rigorous academic major and deliberately seek out harder courses, we plan to make it possible for them to get credit for that when they commission.  Specifically in how their service generates what we call the branching and assignment order or merit list, which basically means giving them a greater choice in what they'll do in the military.

 

      Next, turning to those who instruct ROTC cadets because so many of our officers come from ROTC units, we want them to be taught by our very best.  Just like you want the best professors and you all check out your evaluations on ratemyprofessor.com, we're the same.  And the thing is often in the military, just as with teachers in our society general, generally the job of being a ROTC instructor isn't always treated as importantly as it should be.  We have educators here, I've been an educator myself.

 

      For instance, some officers determining their next assignment may have to choose between a ROTC instructor or accepting a command slot that would get them promoted sooner.  This can make the job less appealing to those that want to advance up the ranks, making some good officers who want to make yet more good officers unable to choose to do this.

 

      And now, that's -- fortunately, that's not always the case.  My senior military assistant, Brigadier General Eric Smith -- Eric, where are you? - who's here today, right back there.  Eric, my senior military assistant in the office of the Secretary of Defense, instructed future Marine officers and the Navy ROTC program at Texas A&M.  And he'll tell you it was fantastic.

 

      So, did our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford.  He was a Marine officer instructor at Holy Cross in Massachusetts for three years.  The first ever chairman, by the way, to have ever done so.  And that not only gave critical insights into the generation of the officers that he would lead in the future, but it also helped him build closer ties between us and that community.  Teaching leadership on a college campus is something DOD should reward.  And we need to encourage and make it easier for our best people to do so.

 

      And that's why I've directed the military services to ensure that their officer promotion and selection boards were appropriately value those who serve as ROTC instructors.  We're also going to set up a pipeline for officers did ROTC themselves to give back to the program and be instructors later in their careers.

 

      Lastly, in terms of the ROTC program as a whole, we want it to be continuously improving nationwide with units and schools across the country sharing best practices and good ideas that might work for others.  Right now we don't have a way to know which units are doing great things that others might want to consider adopting.

 

      In part, because we have so many programs all over the country.  More, by the way, than at the end of the Vietnam War.

 

      So, we're going to develop data-driven ways to accurately measure and assess which ROTC units are most effective in performing their mission, and we're gonna look at much more than just how many officers they commission each year because quality and training and innovative ideas and things like reaching back into the local community and strengthening connections with the school are important, too.

 

      ROTC units that stand out the most each year will be eligible for a new reward recognizing their excellence, the Secretary of Defense ROTC Futures Award.  And I challenge CCNY to be among the first to get it.

 

      Now, I want to be clear that for all we've done over the last year, including the plans I've laid out today, building the Force of the Future isn't going to happen overnight.  It's going to be a generational effort and this is just the beginning, because our goal is to address challenges and seize opportunities that have arisen over years and decades and we have to sustain and build on this over the years and decades ahead as well.

 

      I'm confident we can because for the first time in a long time, the parts of the Pentagon that handle the health, the welfare, the readiness and the talent management of our people across the entire lifetime of their service have a clear roadmap for where they're going and what they're gonna do in the years ahead.

 

      And we'll keep innovating as we learn more, do more and as society and technology change.  After all, we want people to consider military and public service because when it comes to working in national security, no matter what they do, military or civilian, they'll be better off for having been part of this incredible mission.

 

      And that's true for all of you as well, whether it's the people, the skills or the experiences.  Nothing else compares to it, I guarantee it.

 

      You know, it's been said that security is like oxygen.  When you have it, you don't think about it, but when you don't have it, it's all you ever think about.

 

      The men and women who serve in our military provide that security, that oxygen not only to Americans, but to many all over the world who still depend on us for their oxygen, too.  That allows millions of Americans and millions of our friends and allies to get up in the morning and to go to work, to go to schools like CCNY, to live their lives and dream their dreams and give their children a better future.

 

      That is one of the noblest things a person can do and there's no other feeling like waking up every morning and knowing you're contributing to that mission.

 

      While I don't expect all of you to join us, I do ask you to give it some thought and to give encouragement when a friend or a sibling, maybe even one day a child of yours might decide to do so.  Wouldn't even be surprised if it's a future secretary of defense sitting here or somewhere on this campus at CCNY today or a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sitting among the ROTC cadets here.

 

      But I'm also confident that you all have something to contribute, a drive to be something -- part of something bigger than yourself.  And that's where the call to service begins.  And that's the beginning of how we'll make a better and a brighter world together.

 

      Thank you for having me here today.

 

      (APPLAUSE)

 

      STAFF:  We will now transition to question and answers.  We have about 10 minutes, unfortunately. 

 

      The first two questions will come from our student moderators.  First from Etienne Forbes, a four-year Navy veteran.  He is now a CCNY student and a Colin Powell fellow studying organizational psychology.  And then Cadet Christina Androtti, a Baruch student studying human resource management.  Also a New York National Guard member who helped guard JFK Airport following the Chelsea bombings.

 

      So please, Etienne.

 

      Q:  Thank you.  First, I want to thank you first for the efforts made toward improving the family efforts in the military because I still got to see firsthand how it affects the mission day to day.  So can't wait to hear from my fellows still serving how it affects them.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Good.

 

      Q:  My question is on a different tack.  Actually, there was a New York Times article last week highlighting some of the efforts the Department of Defense is making towards artificial intelligence in war fighting.  So, some of the fears mentioned, destabilizing affect it could have if some nations or non-nation actors get these technology.

 

      So, how does the DOD move forward with developing the artificial intelligence amid the concerns that other countries and other -- have less restrictive policies ethically with it?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Well, that's a good question.  And we, of course, have long made sure that our military is at the technological frontiers in the world.  The internet arose from us, the integrated circuit.  If you go back further, jet engines.  And it's important that the Department of Defense pioneer these technologies, artificial intelligence is one of those and there's no question about it.

 

      And there are questions that arise in the application of artificial intelligence, as there are in all areas of warfare, about how it can be used appropriately and ethically and also how we protect ourselves from those who would use it in a destructive and evil way.

 

      With respect to the first part, I think, Etienne, you're getting at the question of if -- when here's artificial intelligence or autonomous systems, you get this idea that they're going to be weapons of war out there that nobody's controlling.  That's not the way we do things.  We will always have a human being in the loop -- a human being making decisions about the use of force on behalf of the United States.

 

      When it comes to defending ourselves against others who might use the same technologies, that is why it's important for us to be at the frontier.  So we can see those problems first and we prepare our defenses and our resilience against them so we can continue to protect our people and more generally protect society against them.  And we are doing that in the case of artificial intelligence and autonomy.  So, I think the article you read was very accurate in that regard, but it's important that in matters we're entrusted with the use of force on behalf of our people and our values.  And it's important that we take our values with us to the battlefield, and we do.

 

      And that's why you see, for example, in the campaign that's going on right now every day to destroy ISIL in Iraq, Syria, wherever it springs up around the world.  We are exceptionally careful in our use of force.  And if you compare us to others who are doing their campaigns around the world -- for example, in Syria, you can see that we're very serious about taking American values to the battle front, we make no apologies about that.  We do that, that's who we are.  And we -- and we win the right way.  And of course, we're going to win.

 

      Q:  Sir, first of all, thank you for coming out here and taking the time to come address us about these issues.

 

      I want to take it in a little bit of a different direction.  As future commissioning officers and cadets in the ROTC program, you know, we're going to have many responsibilities with family, and jobs and the services.  I want to know how do you balance -- not only your personal life -- but as well as the many demands that come from the different services that you deal with.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Well, I'll start with myself.  The way I balance my personal life is right down there, is my wife, Stephanie, who by the way -- and this is important, is like me, and that she -- she loves the troops.  She loves our people who -- who do this mission.  They're who we wake up for every morning.  And it's important to have a partner in life, if you happen to get married or otherwise have a close partner in life, that they share your sense of excitement and dedication to what you're excited -- there's no substitute for that.  That goes back to how you choose that person in the first place, but it's incredibly important. 

 

      We try to support and nurture that as an institution.  Now, I've got to be clear, we have to do what we have to do.  We send people where we need them to protect our country.  We put them in harm's way when that is necessary; we take the utmost care in doing that.  I can't change any of that, that's the profession of arms.  However, within that frame, there's a lot we can do and that we are doing to help our service members reconcile, what's hard for any of us, but particularly hard given the realities of military life.

 

      So let me give you some examples.  We -- and I mentioned this in the case of childcare.  So, let's take a member who's been in service now for 10 years.  Around about that time, they've proven their worth to us, we've invested a lot in them, and that's right around the time -- and by the way, it's getting later and later in this generation, people decide to have a family, it's not as early as it used to be.  And so, then suddenly they say, I want to have a family, how am I going to do that in a way where they send me where they want to send me, when they send me?  Well, we're trying to find ways wherever we can to reconcile those things.

 

      So for example, we're giving commanders the latitude to tell you, your kids have two more years in school.  You can stay at this base, we're not going to send you to this other base for a couple years.  Now, we want something back from you, just like we pay for scholarships for ROTC students, and we want something back from them, we want a commitment to serve us.

 

      So we're willing to work with people in that way, and that's why, you know, I extended daycare hours on bases a few months ago.  May seem like a small thing, but it's not a small thing.  If you're a service member with kids, and the daycare center opens at the very moment you're supposed to be at work, how are you supposed to do that, all this juggling?

 

      Nursing rooms for mothers may seem like a small thing, it's not a small thing, it's a big deal.  It's not a big deal for us to do it, but it's a big deal -- all we have to do is think, and then we realize there are things we can do to help people.

 

      So, I'm looking for ideas, we're constantly trying to do that, because we are a married force, as I said.  We are disproportionately -- relative to the rest of society -- an institution of married people and we've got to make what we have to do compatible with their aspirations to the extent we can.  But the best thing you can do is have somebody that loves what you do, and who loves the mission.

 

      STAFF:  So we have just a few minutes remaining to open the floor for questions from students.  If you'd like to ask a question please come to the center microphone in the center aisle there.  A fair warning, the secretary is probably not going to address questions about the election or politics even though it is seven days away.

 

      Q:  Hello.  Secretary, thank you for being here.  Thank you for taking questions.  My name's (inaudible).  I'm a political science major freshman. 

 

      I know given the disclaimer, my question has be a little bit revised, but we're coming to a big -- America is coming to make a big choice in the coming weeks and regardless of that outcome, how do you feel that your plan that you discussed here today will be able to be continued to be implemented?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Sure.  It's a good question and let me just say why I follow that rule.  In this entire election campaign -- election season, I have -- in congressional testimony, public events, never, ever entered into the political debate.  That's an extremely important principle, and it's important that our institution stand aside from the political process and in particular, it's important that our uniform members do so.

 

      And by my standing aside, I show them that they too can stand aside and not answer questions that are -- I just simply say, I'm sorry I'm not going to answer your question, because it's posed in that way.  So I just wanted to explain and you posed a more general question so that's fine.

 

      How do you know these -- that these things will continue into the future?  I'm confident they will, because they make so much sense and we've had -- I've known my 11, 12 predecessors of secretary of defense and they've all known that our people were central.

 

      They've all helped our institution adapt to the times and their own eras and their own generations so there's a logic here to what we're doing.  It makes sense for our military and I'm confident that logic will carry into the future.

 

      Q:  Thank you.

 

      Q:  Mr. Secretary, I'm 87-years-old, and as you can imagine, I have seen, as a colonel, lots of secretaries of defense.  I am absolutely amazed that you are our secretary of defense compared to all of the others I've ever seen over the years.  And I think we all owe you a thankful, from the bottom of our hearts, especially old ROTC guys who have made a life out of becoming ROTC officers.

 

      I say thank to you, sir.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.  Thanks so much for saying that, I appreciate that.  Thank y'all very much.

 

      (APPLAUSE)

 

      Thank you.  Thanks so much.

 

      STAFF:  I think that gave us the perfect way to end our session today.  So please join me again in thanking Secretary Carter for spending his busy day with us today.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you all, very much.

 

      (APPLAUSE)

 

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