tv Conversation with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter CSPAN March 18, 2016 8:00am-8:46am EDT
festivities to make it out here for a early playbook breakfast. we appreciate. welcome to all of you in live stream land. we're grateful for you tuning in as well. i'm grateful being joined by bryan bender. a bunch of you know him. he came from "politico" from "the boston herald." he was "jane's defence weekly" as global peacekeeping correspondent. how did that work out? >> i wish there were more peace-keeping operations. >> and bryan is also on the board of the military reports and editors association. we're very honored to have with us today secretary of defense ashton carter who just told me has worked directly for seven secretaries of defense including both republicans and democrats. he has worked in 11 administrations and came back as the boss. someone who has negotiated with our enemies.
has written or cowritten 11 books, when he was at yale. he probably enjoyed the upset yesterday. degrees in astro physics, medieval history. >> medieval history, i like to know what the secretary you how much that comes in handy these days. >> i want to thank john collingwood, and bank of america. they made breakfast, lunches, cocktail snacks across the country many years. we appreciate the bank for this tremendous partnership making conversations with the most fascinating and important people in washington and our country possible. so thank you, john, and to your colleagues at the bank of america. i want to remind all of you in live stream land and here we've got got the twitter machine here, tweet your questions at us, #playbookbreakfast. we'll ask your question if it is good.
very honored to welcome secretary ash carter. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you. good to be here. >> good to see you. >> hi, everybody. >> playbook always starts with the news. we have overnight news from bryan. >> as i'm sure you know north korea yesterday tested another no dong medium range missile. it flew over the sea of japan. when you first came to the pentagon north korea had no nuclear weapons. >> right. >> they now have by some estimates six to 10 nuclear bombs. clearly they're trying to develop a system to deliver those weapons. one of your former mentors william perry, former secretary of defense, said that the north korea issue is one of the biggest failures of diplomacy in modern history. is it time to think about a different approach to deterring
north korea given that everything we've tried to do doesn't seem to be making a difference? >> i don't know about deterring, different approach to deterring north korea. inin the first instance that is the bedrock. we've been there since the 1950s. we pay attention to it every day. the slogan of u.s. forces korea is fight tonight. not something we ever want to do, but, it's something we're ready with our south korean allies and have been for many decades. with respect to the missile launch yesterday we had positioned as we always do missile defense assets in anticipation of this possibility to defend our own folks but also south korea and japan. we were positioned. we're analyzing the results of those launches now but to your bigger question, yeah, over the last 25 years or so and
especially in the early part of this century north korea's nuclear and other programs surged forward. that caused us to need to strengthen our deterrent and we have in many ways the point you're making is there another approach? that is worthying about but we have to understand that the north korean regime at the moment seems intent upon this pattern of provocation. we have considerable influence there but we always work with the japanese and south koreans in that regard who are our allies. of course we have enlisted the russians and chinese over time because of possibility of their influence there. by far and away, the country who has the most influence over north korea because of proximity and its economic relationship and also its interests because
there it is, right next to north korea exercising these provocations, these weapons programs is china. china could do a lot more. if they were willing to do that, the president urged chinese leadership to get in the game and try to get them to a position where they stop provocations and ultimately do what they are signed up to do, which is have a non-nuclear korean peninsula and south. >> but at this point you don't see additional military options to get them off this intent -- >> we're doing things to strengthen deterrents every day. so i do, we're doing things to strengthen the alliance with south korea. changing the way we operate with them. strengthening our forces there.
strengthening our missile defenses. putting in a new missile defense. as you probably know decision made in the last couple months with the south koreans. we're yes, doing a lot to protect ourselves and protect our allies. >> mr. secretary, you made a lot of changes with the culture in the forces, women in comb bat and -- combat and culture of building. you said in interview in "wired" magazine, you said i'm a man in a hurry. the pentagon is not known for being a building in a hurry. are they adapting or are you adapting? >> i've been around too long to do all the adapting i'm going to do. one thing i've learned through all this time, you're right, let me start with the fact i love the place. otherwise i wouldn't be there. i love our men and women in uniform. i love all our employees at the department. these people do the noblest thing you can do with your life which is protect our people and make a better world and i love that.
at the same time, particularly in matters of innovation and change, we can be really ponderous and really slow. the problem with that was brought home to me really vividly in the course of the two wars when i was undersecretary and deputy secretary were really all-consuming for us. we now have ones too that are in the same category but i found that too often when we had a desperate battlefield need, something to protect our forces or make them more effective, the answer that would reflexively come back was, well, we have a program to do that. it will take 10 years or it's on a path to 10 or 15 years. guys -- >> fast track. >> 10 days to do this. why is that? why was that? importantly because when i was around in those day, during the cold war things lumbered along slowly. that was dangerous but the
soviet union was slow, methodical, ininexorable but it made sense to have programs over a decade long. also technology didn't cycle as fast. today technology moves real quickly. we're in conflict today. we're in conflict with isil as we speak. we have to, even where we're not in conflict but in competitive situation as with china and russia for example, they're innovating every day. they live out there as we do in a world where a lot of technology doesn't come from us. it comes from the commercial world and we need to feed upon that. that is rapidly changing. so for those two reasons, the immediacy of the possibility of conflict, and the need to react quickly and also pace at which technology changes, i have to challenge our folks to get faster.
also to keep the relationship strong between us and our industry. that's important too. when i started out in this business the, the generations above me had been part of the manhattan project. you talk about physics in my background and it was a reflex to feel with technical knowledge went a responsibility to the broader public and so people were used to working with the government. that is just not case anymore. that is not anybody's fault. just with the passage of time. what that means for me is, i need to work extra hard to reach out to the technology community, interest them in our problems. draw on their tremendous desire to make a difference. you know innovators are, want to do something of consequence. when they learn about how they can do something with us that can make a real difference in terms of protecting people here and around the world. they get real excited. i just need to show them the
opportunity. you can't take it for granted anymore. you have to reach out. that is what i'm trying to do. >> one more on this and bryan will ask you about your pilgrimage to silicon valley. we have number of people in our room and our online audience meet organizations manage. how do you get people who used to take 10 years to do something in 10 days? >> well, first of all they need to be aware of the stakes. that may sound funny but in the course of the wars many times i had the experience of picking up the phone. and calling somebody up do you say you realize because there is a piece of paper sitting on your desk that you haven't signed yet, we're not enroute to providing soldiers with a protective vehicle or a protective vest or, i remember something extremely important to young people which was protective underwear. it was harder -- soon as you
told them, wake up here. move, move, they go, oh, my god, i didn't know that. it was just in the pile along with everything else. awareness is part of it. you had to sit on it, sit on it. something you find in any leadership position. one thing to say, you want everybody to do, but you have to stay every day making sure that's what happens. >> when you say faster, better, trying to get a little bit away from this hide bound process of developing new technologies, getting them to the field, it's hard if you've been around a while to not have a little bit of deja vu. in other words there has been secretaries before you have said very similar things and here you are yet again trying to do this. it's been about a year since you've done the outreach to silicon valley for new ideas, for new processes. what do you think you have achieved?
will it have lasting impact on the -- >> i think it will but first on your general point, yes, secretaries of defense as long as i have known them have been dedicated to making acquisition system perform better. you've got to be. i'm asking us up yesterday on capitol hill asking for almost $600 billion for the department of defense. i think i can convince people they need that for their security. i also have to convince them that we're going to spend their money right. so when it comes to discipline in the acquisition system, reform, efficiency, not having, having more tooth and less tail, that has to be part of the game. that is also a reason for the outreach. you ask about silicon valley, that is a important innovation hub. almost iconic innovation hub. not only one, but yes, i'm trying to make us more visible there.
other problems more apparent, so that people know and they can jump in. rebuild bridges that have are either, have worn down over time or because of things, i mean let's be frank. edward snowden issues and so forth. so we have some outreach. it is important that people know that we're willing to meet them, you know, halfway and work with them in a way that's compatible with them. they're innovative, they want to move fast, they don't want to be entertaining gelled in bureaucracy. they want to be free. they want all these things perfectly understandable toe want. we can't ask them to be our captives if we want them to help us. the reason we have an outpost there make them understand our desire to interact with them and our willingness to change and
adapt. i want to emphasize, silicon valley is on everybody's mind very important but there are other hubs as well. you will see me doing things with respect to them. what do i want to get out of it is two things. i want to get out specific technological products or companies that, taking an interest to us, only doing commercial. said, maybe i get in this national security game. that will make my bit, it can be beneficial to the company. we fund a lot of technology, but also they get to be part of something bigger than themselves. that's exciting to employees. the other thing i want to get out of it, bryan, is people. i want -- we need constantly to ventilate ourselves, rejuvenate ourselves, attract both in uniform and civilian ranks the next generation and i have to recognize that, you know, people, younger than us who are
in the leadership are different. they have grown up in a different environment, a different way. they have a different way, working a different way of thinking. and if i want the very best of them to come into our department i need to understand what kind of career, what kind of life they want. and so drawing them in, then by the way, sending some of our people out. because a lot of our people are excellent as they are, they have grown up in our system. they need to know how the rest of the world of technology works if they are going to stay up-to-date. both programs and money. and technology. and it's people. >> one of the reasons you're so fascinating, you're a student of everything. you've talked about how you get on a long plane trip with a big stack of textbooks, maybe curley up with one on the weekend? >> textbooks are good. i know it sounds nerdy i know but just to make my pitch, if
you like to learn things textbooks are written to teach you. so you're reading something that is deliberately written for somebody who doesn't know anything about that subject to get something out of it. that's the whole point. somebody who knows it very well, worked very hard to write something like that. they're surprisingly rewarding. picks up a book on a topic you don't know anything about. you say, well, i really learned a lot about that. i don't have any background in it and it is an issue. when i get on a plane these days the books are workbooks mostly, big binders full of notes and stuff because we've got a lot to work on. >> you've been talking about the a awareness you've been fostering in silicon valley. let's look through the other end of that telescope. what have i learned from silicon valley trips that you wish we could copy?
>> principle thing i really learned and heartening, the willingness of people to come our way and reach our way. they look at the world. they read the newspapers, this is pretty dangerous place and they know that everything else that's good in human life and freedom and innovation, your family, the careers that they like, all of those things aren't possible unless you have the basic thing which is security. and that's what we're trying to provide and i find, it's kind of a myth that people are detached from security or detached from the military and the mission. many people haven't had a personal experience but they can immediately relate. and i find that really rewarding. there is that and also amazing things that are going on out there and i'll see something being used for a completely different purpose around say, i betcha we can make use of this. >> you and your colleagues have
done so much to rebuild goodwill there since snowden. along comes the iphone case. how much did that poison the well? >> well i think it's like everything else, something we have to work through. i need to say right at the beginning with respect to the apple case, that is a law enforcement matter. it is in litigation so i really can't address that but there is a bigger issue out there no question about it and i don't think that one particular case can drive an entire universe of -- >> it seems to be? >> of issues. well, i think people technically knowledgeable have some context on it. certainly we have some context on it and our context is this. we have to protect our own networks in defense. i'm just speaking for the department of defense. there is no point my being out there buying planes and tanks and ships and equipment and soldiers and so forth if i can't connect them because in today's world that is necessary for their functioning.
i have to make sure we have integrity in our networks. so i have a huge common interest with the rest of society in data integrity. that is a base which we all can work together. i think we just need to find that base and try to come together. as i said, not let any one situation to drive what will be a host of solutions. like anything else we'll have to work together across the public sector and the private sector to come to a place which allows everybody to have what they want which is freedom on the internet and innovation on the internet and safety. so you can wake up in the morning and take your kids to school and go to work and dream your dreams and live full lives which is what people want and they deserve all of that and we can have it all if we work at it. >> mr. secretary, in the context of your silicon valley outreach you mentioned people. go back to washington for a minute.
you have have had very difficult time, the administration has had a very difficult time getting officials confirmed and in place in the department of defense to carry out a lot of what you're talking about. how much is that been a limiting factor? you don't have an army secretary confirmed right now. brad carson, who was up for undersecretary of personnel, all about people withdrew his nomination after yet another tussle with senator mccain in the armed services committees. talk a little bit about how much that level of gridlock it seems is affecting your ability to do your job? >> we really need good people and they deserve prompt hearings and civil treatment and so -- i really have to say in the large they have gotten it and gotten it throughout my long career. i've been confirmed twice. i've been through the process. it is arduous process. understand that.
that is the way our constitution works. so i don't have any problem with that. people expect public officials to have undergone scrutiny and to con port themselves in a way that would make people proud. i'm okay with that. it does get hard late in an administration to get people to walk down that road. in a sense that becomes an issue. at the same time i have to say we have a pretty deep bench. much as i want our people and appeal to the senate to move our people forward, we have a lot of good people and we're going to keep doing our work and i should say also military nominations, same thing. in general we've gotten very, very good treatment and speedy treatment. that's essential as well. >> but when you say it has become unparticularly uncivil? you used word civil in some cases? >> there are always ones in
which there are issues and debates and so forth that go on but, no, i wouldn't say uncivil. i think that, as i said i understand the role of the senate. i respect the role of the senate. that is the way our system works. the best i can do put together, put forth really good people and then back them up and try to help them get through this process. >> mr. secretary, something you have been able to do partly by coincidence, action of the calendar, career cycles, you've had the opportunity to appoint, name, a very unusual number of leaders of the uniform services, combatant commands, those are people that will live past you. what are you looking for when you make those decisions? >> you're right, mike. in just a few months time i will have presented to the president and he will have nominated
replacements for every single senior four-star job in the department, combatant commanders, service chiefs, chairman of the joint chiefs. >> unprecedented. that never has happened. >> it just so happens at all comes at once and you're right, they will go on beyond the administration. they're superb people. i spend a lot of time on this. i'm very careful. one piece of good news for me that makes it easier, well, two things, make it easier for me, one, i know all these folks because i've been you know at it for a while. i have known is a lot of these people since they were junior officers, so i have a very good read on their operational expertise, their managerial expertise, how well they work with people. strategically, can you send them out around the world to work with militaries of other countries? do they represent the united
states in a strong, dignified way. very easy for me to get a read on that. the other thing we have amazingly deep bench. so a number of people said to me, i really like the folks that you have taken to the president for your appointments. my standard retort is, if i had taken the second choices, you would be saying the same thing. that is how deep our bench is. they're really, they're excellent. i need to tell you that, two more, just in the last day so something for you to know. first a replacement for northcom. who the president has approved and will nominate to the senate. and we hope that they approve her. this is general lori robertson of the air force who has a very deep operational experience. now running the air forces in
the pacific which is a very challenging place for air force. very intense operational tempo. very good managerial experience. i seen her when she did budget for joint chiefs. >> would that be the first female? >> general robinson also happens would be the first-ever female combatant commander. >> putting up wolf blitzer's breaking news banner. >> that shows another thing that we have coming along now, a lot of female officers who are exceptionally strong. lori certainly fits into that category. also general vince brooks who will take over the position of commander of u.s. forces korea, another senior four-star job. it is part of pacific command but is a major political, military command. you were talking about that earlier.
a place of, where we need our very best and vince is that. also an officer with tremendous operational and managerial experience. most recently for those of you who don't know him, he is the one who has been shepherding what the army calls pacific pathways which is the army's ingredient in the so-called rebalance to the asia-pacific which is our intention and determination to keep the pivotal role of american military power in the asia-pacific regionp going because that brought peace an prosperity to that region for decades. just step back and look at the demographics and so forth. the single most consequential region of the world for america's future is the asia pacific. half of the people of planet live there. half of the economic activity is there. it is important that it remain safe and secure as well as prosperous. the key to that always has been the united states.
we intend to keep that going. >> good opportunity to play a little bit of risk, if you remember the board game. there is a lot of security challenges that will remain long after you're out of this position. you mentioned the asia-pacific. maybe we can quickly go around the world some of the hot spots. let's start with the islamic state. 17 months now. you have been very vocal about your desire to get moving more quickly to take out some of these strongholds both in iraq and in syria. but most experts in the military, out of the military, foreign partners will agree that the coalition partners, the local forces on the ground that you and others, the president have said are so critical not to just beating them but sustaining a victory are nowhere ready to do that. and so what gives you confidence that the arab allies in particular are going to be up to the task anytime soon? >> okay. well, you're right, i'll start
there and we'll march around the world but with respect to defeating isil, we will, i'm confident, we have to defeat isil and back in the fall the president said to me and to general dunford we need to accelerate this process, we need to move this along. so that's what we've been doing and there is a lot to say about that and momentum that we're building in that direction but i'm confident that we'll do it. the -- and we have a operational plan now. you mentioned geography does start with iraq and syria in the first instance. you have to get it right there. that is the parent tumor of isil is, that is where it sprang from. we need to destroy it there and we will. and other places where it metastasized all the while protecting ourselves. now, bryan points out something very important with respect to both iraq and syria which is,
not only do we need to defeat isil, we need to keep them defeated. and we know what that means. it means somebody has to govern these places after the defeat in a way that the people can accept and is decent and not barbaric. that means working with local forces on the ground in iraq and syria. those are two somewhat different circumstances but just take iraq. we're working with the iraqi army and the iraqi security forces. that is a slow but accelerating and vital business. we're training them, we're building them, we're deploying them. remember where we're going. they took ramadi. go up to mosul. they have to take mosul. that is the second city of isil and we'll do that. and overin syria the target is raqqa which is the supposed capital of this supposed caliphate. and, we need to take that away
because that will signify what is true which is that it's unacceptable to have a state state based upon this ideology. working through local forces is the correct strategic approach and we can do a lot of it ourselves, bryan. but you say the coalition. i went with all of the defense ministers of the coalition partners in brussels, first-ever meeting with all of them. my basic message is the united states is prepared to lead, we will do it and we have the most capability but we need you all to get in the game. that particularly applies to those that live there in the region. who therefore have a stake, major stake in, but also may have some special ability to make contributions that it is hard for americans to make. so i expect them to do that. 90% of the them signed up to do more. now i'm collecting those contradictions.
so it has to be a coalition effort. >> excuse me, mr. secretary. just a pause in our march for just a second. a quote i saw from you that i really liked on this point of the partners, you said to sakari, you said when we do win, we'll remember who contributed. >> that's right. >> that's a great quote. >> that's exactly right. people need to both recognize we are going to win but they need to get in the game. it will be important part of what they, what the chessboard looks like when the isil piece is gone. they want to look, situate themselves on that chessboard. we'll remember what contributions. >> pause button. pieces will not be gone in the next nine months. is this something that happens under the next president? >> i would like it to happen as soon as possible. my answer to that is as soon as possible.
we're doing everything we can to accelerate. and we get more opportunities. the more success we have, the more we see. >> okay. so i should address that. is it possible that you will defeat isil under this president? >> i certainly hope so. that is what he says he wants. that is what he told me and general dunford, get this done as soon as possible. i would not like to leave this to my successor. that is what the president says a lot about these things. he wants to leave things in a good place. i think that is very responsible as second term -- >> take the pause button off now. next stop. >> okay. just keep going. while we're in the region we have iran, as i said as part of the budget, you try to understand our strategy just think of five things, isil, iran, north korea, china, russia. that's it, right? i talked about isil. with respect to iran, we have
the iran nuclear deal which is a good deal so far as deal with the nuclear activities in iran. that doesn't deal with all of the activities of iran and all of its maligning influence in the region. for that we need to continue to stay strong in the gulf, stick up for and defend our friends and allies there in the gulf to include particularly israel. and so there is a lot we're doing in that area also. north korea, i already talked about fight tonight and staying ready there. russia and china are two very different situations but they have this in common. their places where we don't certainly wish to have a war, we don't wish to have a competitive situation but we find ourselves where we find ourselves, right? for russia, for a quarter century, for those of us who were waging the cold war remember, it has been now a
quarter century since that has been on our defense radar screen. sadly it now is but it is. so we are quadrupling this year in '17 budget our spending on strengthening our deterrents and reassures in europe. both defending the territory of europe against possible aggression of the kind you saw russia exercise in ukraine and also the, what is called hybrid warfare which is the little green men phenomenon, that you also saw in ukraine and hardening our friends and allies against that kind of influence by russia. of course russia spends a lot on its defense and has a lot of technology. so that is another reason why we need to stay ahead technologically. china, same thing. a rising military power, and which is fine. but one that can act aggressively which is not fine. so we need to, our, our approach
to the asia-pacific is everybody gets to rise. and that is the system that we promoted that had first japan rise and then south korea rise and taiwan and southeast asia. and today china and india. all that's fine but that can't happen if there isn't stability and peace and we have a role in that in a free and open system. and the chinese don't always stand for that that we need to check any influence that put well issue of asia-pacific off rails. >> i come to my talented "politico" colleagues austin, and he will have a question to him. while i get a microphone to him, doug palmer, washington's best trade reporter, he has a great twitter handle. @trade reporter. doug reminds us approval of the tpp is important to me as
another aircraft carrier. when you look at opposition to that agreement on the campaign trail, what are the geostrategic risks of not approveing that trade deal? >> well the principle risk is that we will lose control of the terms of trade and conditions of trade in the region that will be most important to our economy in the future. and cede that to a system of more of coercion and bilateral deals where, to be realistic about it, china will try to muscle other countries into a deal that our coercive, unfair and very importantly exclude or discriminate against our companies. that is why it is important to us. i talked about the rebalance and
that we're part of the military rebalance and we're standing for an open system in the asia-pacific and trade is an important part of that and it couldn't be more important to the american economy because that is where our economic future, more than any other region, other regions are important, more than any other lies there so we want to be in the game and we want the game to be played according to the rules that we believe are the right ones and won't disadvantage our companies. >> austin wright, great young "politico" reporter. >> austin wright from "politico." as part of his goldwater-nichols review senator john mccain has had a number of witnesses before his panel talk about the combatant command structure and several of them said the current structure where you have regional commanders who have control of forces in their specific parts of the world that is not well-suited for today's modern world where threats are increasingly, increasingly global and transcend boundaries.
i'm wondering how you think about that problem? and if you're thinking about making any changes yourself to the combatant command structure as part of your own review of goldwater-nichols? >> i am thinking about it a lot. i am, had the opportunity to discuss that with the committee and with chairman mccain yesterday and i think i like the chairman and other members of the committee see goldwater-nichols was a great thing. it did a lot of very important things. it established the combatant commanders jointness, lots of other things however, that was an era before there was a big a need as there is now for transregional and transfunctional integration. and so that's an area that couldn't have been foreseen at the time. and that we now see clearly. my own view of that, and i'll be making proposals in the next month and matters affecting what is called the goldwater-nichols