tv Conversation with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter CSPAN March 18, 2016 8:00pm-8:46pm EDT
senior fellow for the center for strategic and international studies joins us to talk about vladimir putin's decision to a trawl russian forces from syria this week. be sure join the discussion. >> an interview with defense secretary ashton carter. a form on that form on genocide committed by isis. presidential tech -- candidate ted cruz and governor john kasich holding a town meeting in utah. two reporters from politico interviewed ashton carter covering a variety of national security issues including isis, north korea, china, and russia. this is 45 minutes. >> please welcome politico's
chief white house correspondent and editor. >> good morning. thank you for recovering from your same patrick festivities to make it out here for an early breakfast. we appreciate it. welcome to all of you in live stream land. where always grateful to you for tuning in. i am joined by bryan bender. a bunch of you know him. he came to politico from the boston globe. he has known secretary carter going back to the 1990's. how did that work out? brian: i wish it was a more peacekeeping operation. we are honored to have with us today secretary of defense ashton carter who told me he has
worked directly for seven secretaries of defense including 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 co-written 11 books when he was at yale, enjoy the upset astrophysics and medieval history. comes in handy these days. before we kick off we want to thank bank of america and john collingwood for these conversations. they have moved the -- made the food possible. we appreciate the bank for this tremendous partnership making these conversations with the most fascinating and important people in washington and our country. -- possible.
thanks to you and your colleagues. we want to remind all of you, we have the twitter machine here so please tweet your questions at will ask a question if it is good. so now we are very honored to welcome secretary ash carter. mr. carter: good to be here. playbook always starts with the news and we have some overnight news from bryan. tested inth korea medium-range missile that flew over the sea of japan. when you first came to the pentagon, north korea have no -- had no nuclear weapons. to 10 nuclearsix bombs. they are trying to develop a
system to deliver those weapons. one of your former mentors, william perry, said the north korea issue is one of the biggest failures of diplomacy in modern history. a it time to think about different approach to deterring north korea given that everything we tried to do does not seem to me making a difference? mr. carter: a different approach to deterring north korea, in the first instance, that is the bedrock. we have been there since the 1950's. 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 is something we are ready with our south korean allies to do and have been for many decades. with respect to the missile launch yesterday we had positioned as we always do in anticipation
of this possibility to defend our own folks. japan, we korea and are analyzing the results of those launches. to your bigger question, over andlast 25 years or so 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 but the point you are making is is there another approach estimates that weworth thinking about it have to understand that the north korean regime at the moment seems intent upon this wetern of provocation and have considerable influence their but we always work with the japanese and the south koreans in that regard who are
our allies and of course we have enlisted the russians and the chinese overtime because of the possibility of their influence by far and away the most -- the country that has the most influence over north korea because of proximity and its economic relationship and also in its interests because there it is, right next to north korea exercising these provocations, pursuing these weapons against china. and so china could do a lot more and they were willing to do that. the president has urged the chinese leadership to get in the positionget them to a where they stop provocations and ultimately do what they are signed up to do which is have a non-nuclear korean peninsula. >> you do not see additional military options to get them off -- intent
mr. carter: we are doing things to strengthen the alliance with , changing the way we operate with them, strengthening our forces, strengthening our missile defenses, putting in a new missile defense. the decision made in the last couple of months with the south koreans, we are doing a lot to protect ourselves and our allies. changes in a lot of the culture and in the culture of the building. you said in an interview with , i am agazine as part man in a hurry. the pentagon is not known for being in a hurry. are they adapting or are you adapting? mr. carter: i have been around too long. i have done all the adapting i am going to do.
one thing i have learned in all that time, you are right. let me start with fact that i love the place, otherwise i would not be there. i love our men and women in uniform, i love all our employees. these are people who have done that most noble thing that you can do with your life which is protect our people and make a better world. 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 vividly in the course of the two wars when i was under -- undersecretary and deputy secretary were all-consuming for us. theave once to that are in same category. i found that too often when we had a desperate battlefield need, something to protect our forces are make them more effective, the answer that would reflexively come back is, we have a program to do that, it
will take 10 years or it is on a path to 10 or 15 years. why was that? importantly when i was around in those days, during the cold war, things lumbered along slowly. that was dangerous but the soviet union was slow, methodical, inexorable, but you could see what was coming and it made sense to have programs that were over a decade long. also at that time, technology did not cycle is fast. today, technology moves real quickly and we are in conflict today, we are in the conflict of isil as we speak. we have to even where we are not in conflict that we are in a competitive situation as with china and russia, for example. they are innovating every day and the live out there as we do in a world where a lot of technology does not come from us. it comes from the commercial world and we need to feed upon
that and that is rapidly changing so, for those two reasons, the immediacy of the possibility of conflict and the need to react quickly and also the 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 is important, too. when i started out in this business, 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 that -- with technical knowledge went a responsibility to the broader public and so people were used to working with the government. that is just not the case anymore. that is not anybody's fault, is 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, drawn their tremendous desire to
make a difference. innovators want to do something of consequence. when they learn about how they can do something with us that will make a real difference in terms of protecting people here and around the world get -- they get really excited and they want to get involved. i want to show them that opportunity you cannot take it for granted. you have to reach out and that is what i am trying to do. mike: we have a number of people in the audience who manage people. how do you get people who are used to doing something in 10 years and change to 10 days? mr. carter: in the course of the s, many times i had the experience of picking up the phone and calling someone and saying do you realize that because there is a piece of paper sitting on your desk cap not on routewe are
to providing soldiers with a protective vehicle or a remembere vest or -- i something extremely important to young people which was protective underwear. i is yourder -- and told them, wake up, they say i did not know that. it was in the file so awareness was part of it. something you find in any leadership position, one thing what you want everyone to do but you have to make sure that is what happens every day. >> when you say faster, better, try to get away from this high found process, getting them to the field, it is hard if you have been around a while but not have a little bit of asia view.
i have been secretaries before you that have said similar things. here you are yet again trying to do this. it has been about a year since you have done this outreach to silicon valley for new ideas, for new processes, what do you think you have achieved, will it have lasting impact? esther carter: i think it will. on your general point, secretaries of defense as long as i have known them have been dedicated to making acquisition systems perform at her. i was up yesterday on capitol hill asking for almost $600 billion from the department of defense. i think i can convince people that they need that for their security. i also have to convince the that we are going to spend their money right. and so, when it comes to discipline in the acquisition system, reform, efficiency, tale, more tooth and less
the has to be part of the game. that is also a reason for the outreach. you ask about silicon valley, that is an important innovation an iconic innovation hub. not the only one, by the wave them about yes, i am trying to make us more visible there, our problems more parent so that people know and they can jump arerebuild bridges that either have worn down over time or because of things, let's be frank. edward snowden issues and so forth. so we have some outreach and it is important that people know themwe are willing to meet them in ad work with way that is compatible with them. they are innovative, they want to move fast, they want -- do not want to be tangled in your
accuracy. they want to be free. they want all these things and it is perfectly understandable and we cannot ask them to be our captives if we are going to ask them to help us. the reason to have an outpost out there is to make them understand our desire to interact with them but also our willingness to change and adapt. i want to emphasize my silicon valley is what is on ever but his mind, very important but there are other hubs as well and you see me doing things with respect to them. what do i want to get out of those two things? i want to get out specific technological products or companies that have taken an interest in us. they were only doing commercial. maybe i will get in this --ional security game, that it can be beneficial to the company. we fund a lot of technology and the get to be part of something bigger than themselves and that is exciting to employees. the other thing i want to get
out of it is people. need constantly to ventilate ourselves, rejuvenate ourselves, attract and our uniform and civilian ranks the next generation. peopleto recognize that younger than us who are in leadership are different, they have grown up in a different environment, a different way of working for different way of thinking. if i want the very best of them to come into our department they need to understand what kind of career, what kind of life they want. , by theg them in and way, sending some of our people out has our people are excellent -- excellent as they are, they have grown up in our system and they need to know how the rest of the world of technology works if they are going to stay up-to-date. it is programs and money and technology and its people.
ask one of the reasons you are so fascinating, you are a student of everything. you talk about how you get on a long stack -- along long flight with a stack of textbooks. sounds nerdy, i know. if you like to learn things, textbooks are written to teach you. so you're reading something that is deliberately written for someone who does not know anything about that subject to get something out of it, that is the whole point, so somebody who knows it very well, has worked to write something like that and they are surprisingly rewarding. you pick up on a book on a topic you do not know anything about and you say i really learned a lot about that. i do not have any background. when i get on a plane these days, the books are workbooks, big binders full of notes and stuff because we all have to work on them. >> you have been talking about
the awareness you have been fostering at silicon valley. let's look at the other end of that telescope. what have you learned from your trips to silicon valley that they do that you wish you could copy or have copied? excitingr: lots of innovation. the principal thing i have learned and that is heartening is the willingness of people to come our way and reach our way. they look at the world, they read the newspapers, it is a dangerous place and they know everything else that is good in human life, freedom and innovation and your family, the careers that they like, all those things are impossible unless you have the basic thing which is security. that is what we are trying to provide. , it is kind of a myth frompeople are detached security or detached from the military and the mission.
many people have not had a personal experience but they can immediately relate and i find that really rewarding. so there is that and also the amazing things that are going on out there and i will see something that is being used for a different purpose. i bet we can make use of this. >> you and your college have done so much to rebuild goodwill since edward snowden then along comes the iphone case. how much did that poison the well? mr. carter: it is like everything else, it is something we have to work through. i have to say at the beginning with respect to the applicants, that is a law enforcement matter, in litigation, so i cannot address that but there is a bigger issue out there, no question about it and i do not think that one particular case can drive an entire universe. >> it seems to be. mr. carter: of issues. we have some context on it and
our context is this. we have to protect our own networks and defense. just speaking for the department of defense, the point in my being out there buying airplanes and things and ships and equipping soldiers if i cannot connect them, in today's world, that is necessary for their functioning. i have to make sure we have integrity internetworks. i have a huge common interest with the rest of society in data integrity. that is a base from which we can all work together. i think we need to find that base and try to come together as i said, i will let any one situation to be a host of solutions and like everything else we are going to have to work together across the public sector and the private sector to come to a place which allows anybody 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. they deserve all of that. we can have it all if we work at it. >> in the context of your silicon valley outreach you mentioned people. let's go back to washington for minute. you have had a very difficult time, the administration has had a difficult time getting senior officials confirmed in place in the department of defense, carry out a lot of what you are talking about. how much has that been a limiting factor, you do not have a secretary confirmed but carson who is up for undersecretary of personnel, all about people, withdrew his nomination after yet another tussle with senator mccain. talk a little bit about how much that level of gridlock it seems is affecting your ability to do your job. mr. carter: we really need good people and they deserve prompt
treatment andivil so on. i have to say in the large, they have gotten it and they have gotten it throughout my long career. i have been confirmed twice. i have been through the process. it is an arduous process. that is where the constitution works. i do not have any problem with that. people expect public officials to have undergone scrutiny and wayomport themselves in a that would make people proud. i'm ok with that. it does get hard late in an administration to get people to be willing to walk down that road, so, in that sense, it becomes an issue. at the same time i got to say we have a pretty deep ranch so 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 are going to keep doing our work, and i
should say also in military nominations, same thing. in general, we have gotten very, and speedyreatment treatment, that is essential as well. >> when you say it has become particularly uncivil, you use the word uncivil in some cases. mr. carter: there are always ones in which there are issues and debates that go on. i would not say uncivil. i think that as i said, i understand the role of the senate, and respect the role of the senate, that is the way our system works. the best i can do is put together, put forth really good people and back them up and help them get through this process. >> something you have been able to do partly by coincidence, the accident of the calendar, career cycles, you have had the you havety to appoint named an unusual number of leaders of the uniformed service
, combatant commands. those are able who are going to live past you. what are you looking for when you make those decisions? mr. carter: you're right, mike. , ijust a few months' time will have presented to the president and he will have nominated replacements for every job insenior four-star the department, combatant commanders, service chiefs, the chairman of the joint chiefs. all comes happens it at once and you're right, they will go on beyond the administration. they are superb people. i spent a lot of time on this, i am very careful about it. one piece of good news for me that makes it easier, two things make it easier for me. one is i know all these folks because i have been at it for a while. i have known people since they were junior officers so i have a
good read on their operational expertise, their managerial expertise, how well they work with people, how they think strategically, can you send them out around the world to work with ella terri's of other countries, do they represent the u.s. in a strong and dignified way, so it is very easy to get a read on that. deep bench.mazingly a lot of people said to me i like the folks that you have taken to the president for your appointment. my standard report -- retort is if i had taken the second choices you would say the same thing. that is how deep our bench is. they are excellent. two more tell you that somethinge last day, for you to know, first, a replacement for north from --
hashcom that the president approved and will nominate to the senate. they will approve her, this is of the lori robertson air force who has a very deep operational experience running the air force in the pacific which is a very challenging place for the air force and a very intense operational tempo. very good managerial experience. i'd have seen her -- i have seen her when she did the budget. >> that is the first female? mr. carter: it's a happened she will be the first -- he is the first female combatant commander. that shows yet another thing which is we have coming along now a lot of female officers who are exceptionally strong. lori fits into that category. and also, general vince brooks,
who will take over the position of the commander of u.s. forces, korea, another senior four-star job. it is part of pacific command but is a major political -military command. we were talking about that earlier. a place where we need our very best and vince is that. also an officer with tremendous operational and managerial experience. just recently for those of you who do not know him, he has been the one who is 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 region going because that is what brought peace and test -- prosperity to that region for decades.
you just set back and look at the demographics, the single most consequential region of the world for america's future is the asia-pacific. half of the people and the planet -- on the planet live there, half of the economic activity remains there, it is important it remain safe and secure. we intend to keep that going. >> it is a 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 your out of this position. you mentioned the asia-pacific. maybe we could quickly go around the world, some of the hot spots . let's start with the war against 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 syria. but most experts in the military, out of the military, foreign partners will agree that the partners, people on the
important to sustain a victory. they are not ready. what gives you confidence that to arab allies will be up the task anytime soon? mr. carter: you are right. i will start there in march around the world but with the spec to defeating isil, we will be contrary, we have to defeat isil. back in the fall, the president said to me and general dunford, we need to accelerate this process, we need to move this along. that is what we have been doing. that is a lot to say about , the momentum we are building in that direction, but i am confident we will do it. and we have an operational plan now that you mentioned, geography does start with iraq and syria. in the first instance you have
to get it there, that is where the parent tumor of isil is, that is where it spring from. we need to destroy it there and we will. and then other places where it is sec. carter: brian points out something very important with respect to both iraq and syria, not only do a need to defeat isil we need to keep undefeated. we know what that means. it means that somebody has to govern these places. after the defeat, a way that 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, if you just take a rock, we are working with the iraqi army and the iraqi security forces, that is a slow, but accelerating and vital business, we are training them, deploying them. remember where we are going, they took ramadi.
we got to muzzle. we have to take mozilla. that is the second city of isil. over indo that, and syria, the target is rocco. which is the supposedly it'll of the supposedly elevate. -- caliphate. we need to take that away because that will signify what is true which is that is unacceptable devastate based upon this ideology. but, working through local forces is the correct strategic approach. we can do a lot of it ourselves, i metu say the coalition, with all of the defense ministers of the coalition partners in brussels, the first ever meeting of all of them. message was the united states is prepared to lead, we will do it, we have the most capability, but we need you all to get in the game. that particularly applies to those who live there in the region.
therefore, have a major stake, but may also have some special ability to make contributions, that it is hard for americans to make. i expect them to do that, 90% of them signed up to do more, and now i'm collecting those contributions. it has to be a coalition effort. a second, afor just quote that i saw from you that i -- wheniked, you said we do win, we will remember who contributed. sec. carter: that's right. that's exactly right. people need to recognize that we are going to win. they need to get in the game, it will be an important part of what they, and i say with the
chest for looks like when the uses gone, they want to be able to look and situate themselves on the chessboard and we will remember the contributions. >> it will not be gone in the next nine months, says the something that happened under the next president? sec. carter: i would like it to happen as soon as possible. we are doing everything that we can to accelerate and we get more opportunities. the more success that we have, the more we see -- >> is it possible that you will defeat isil under this president? sec. carter: i certainly hope so, that is what he said he wants. get this done. as soon as possible. i would like to not leave this to my successor. by the way, that is something that he says a lot about things to -- things. he wants to leave things in a good place for his successor and i think that is very responsible. what we are in the region, we
have around. sec. carter: i said as they presented a budget, if you want to understand our strategy you can understand five things, isil, iran, north korea, china, russia. that is it. i talked about isil. iran, we haveo the iran nuclear deal which is a good deal so far as it does with the nuclear activities of iran, but that does not give all the activities and all of them aligned influence in the region. to that, we need to continue stay strong in the gulf, stick up for and defend our friends and allies. include israel. there is a lot that we are doing and that area. north korea, already talked about. staying ready there. russia and china are two very different situations. they have this in common.
they are places where we do not wish to have a war. we do not wish to have a competitive situation but we find ourselves where we find ourselves. quarter-century, they have been waging the cold war, remember, it has been now a quarter-century since that has been going on. sadly, it now is. yeare are quadrupling this . our spending on strengthening our deterrence and reassurance and europe, both defending the territory of europe against possible aggression. also, the little green man phenomenon. also, you sign ukraine, hardening our friends and allies
against the kind of influence by russia. russia spend a lot on defense and has a lot of technology, so that is another reason why we need to stay ahead. technologically. china, same thing, a rising , but one that can act aggressively which is not fine. our approach to the asia-pacific is everybody gets to rise. that is the system that we first japant had rise and then south korea rise and taiwan and southeast asia. and today, china and india. all of that is fine, but that cannot happen if there is not stability and peace. we have a role in that in the fray and open system. the chinese don't always stands for that, and we need to check any influence that could put the whole history of the asian pacific off the rolls. let me go to one of my colleagues. he is a question.
, he hasague doug palmer a great twitter handle. he reminds us that you famously said that the approval of the tpp is important to me as another aircraft carrier. when you look at the opposition to that agreement, on the campaign trail, what are the geostrategic risks of not approving that trey deal? riskcarter: the principal is that we will lose control of the terms of the trade. and the conditions of trade in the region that will be most important to our economy in the future. system ofhat to a core version and bilateral deals where we'll be realistic about it, china will try to muscle deal thattries into a
is coercive, unfair, and very importantly, exclude or discriminate against our companies. so, that is why it is important to us. it's important. rebalance, and we are responsible for the military aspect of the rebalance, but it is bigger than that. we are standing for an open andem in the asia-pacific trade is an important part of that. it cannot be more important to the american economy because economichere our future, more than any other region, other regions are important, but 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 that one disadvantage our company. >> a great young political reporter -- >> often right, from politico. senator john mccain has had a number of witnesses before his panel talk about the combatant command structure and several of
them have said that the current structure where you have regional commanders who have control of forces in their specific parts of the world, that that is not well suited for today's modern world where threats are increasingly global and transcends boundaries. i'm wondering how you think about that problem, if you are thinking about making any changes, yourself, to the combatant command structure as part of your own review of goldwater nickel. sec. carter: i am thinking about it a lot, i had the opportunity to discuss that with the committee and the chairman --terday and i think that i like the chairman other members of the committee, goldwater nichols was a great thing, did a lot of very important things, it did establish the combatant commander situation. however, that was in an era of before there was this big need for trans regional and trans
functional integration. so that is an aria that cannot have been foreseen at the time. and that we now see clearly. i willview of that, and be making proposals in the next month in this and other matters affecting what is called the goldwater nichols basket, many of which congress will have to approve. we'll be discussing that, with them and hearing their ideas. and trying to come up with the best possible ideas for the country going forward. on the joint chiefs of staff and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to do that. i do that every day. i depend on them. i would like to strengthen their role in doing that, i don't want to do that anyway that subtracts from their ability to give independent military advice. i don't favor putting the chairman in the chain of command, per se. the chairman -- i watch this every day, the chairman gives me
and the president of the united states a very valuable, independent, professional military advice. that is really key. but we can have both of those things at the same time. i expect that to be something where i will be making proposals. also, in areas of acquisition and structure. getting rid of some of our access headquarters, i talked about the details. there will be a number of proposals coming out in the course of the next month. as we say goodbye to mr. secretary, you recently went to the army navy game, what was that like? sec. carter: it was terrific. the level of energy and enthusiasm is fantastic. there, as everywhere, when you look into the eyes of these fantastic young people who are joining us, that is what i, by far and away i love most. about this job.
i tell them that they are what i wake up for every day. my wife and i who loves the joy ofalso, that is the this. we love to meet with them. way, -- by the when i worked for bill. his wife lee. is a delightful person, always traveled with him, and it is a great complement. many of the other spouse is a senior military people, stephanie can do that because she works, but every once in while she can. remember, our military is a family affair. half of our listed people, over half are married. 70% of the officers are married, it is a married force. you recruit an individual and you retain a family. it is really important that the family still connected. when she is able to come and meet with spouses, she can meet
with kids, we are going to a hospital, unfortunately there is less of that than there were in the past years. in years past, we would go every weekend. dover. for a spouse in a family to see a family at the other end, means a lot. so, it is great when she can come and it signifies, it is another way signifying to these kids and their families just how much and how proud we are of them and how grateful we are and how they are everything to us. i hope you all feel that way too. "deadliesta fan of catch"? sec. carter: stephanie says that as far she can tell every episode is the same. i've seen michael 11 seasons. i've watched every single one. it's great i love the ocean.
day, you are the probably all the same way, you need something to wind down your brain. it's a very good way to do it. >> thank you brian bender for the great team. thank you secretary's team who made this possible for their hard work on this event and we think our political events colleagues who always pull off an amazing weekend. thehank all of you and lifestream audience for joining us and we think john collingwood. we think bank of america. we think all of you for coming this morning at mr. secretary, thank you for a fantastic conversation. sec. carter: thank you everybody. [applause]
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