Two days before the Air Force's 68th birthday, Defense
Secretary Ash Carter said today at the Air Force Association's Air
and Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2015 at the Gaylord
National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., that
the military must embrace the future to remain the best force.
The defense secretary said the gathering's theme,
“Reinventing the Aerospace Nation,” could not be more appropriate in
the year marking the 100th anniversary of the first successful use
of combat aircraft.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks at the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2015. Secretary Carter reaffirmed the Department's commitment to innovation and technology. (Photo by U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
Over the past century, no nation has used air power to
demonstrate its global reach, to compress time and space like the
United States,” Carter said.
Today, he said, it's vital to innovate and reinvest in the
people, strategies and technologies that will sustain the U.S.
military's dominance into a second aerospace century.
Just as Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities
ranging from stealthy network penetration to intellectual property
theft, the defense secretary said, criminal and terrorist networks
are also increasing their cyber operations.
“Low-cost and global proliferation of malware have lowered
barriers to entry and have made it easier for smaller, malicious
actors to strike in cyberspace,” Carter said. “From cyber to
electronic warfare to threats in outer space and under the sea, we
need to redouble our effort on those frontiers.”
But developing the best technology and strategy calls for
recruiting and retention of the best people to implement these
concepts, the secretary explained.
Commitment to People
The secretary said his “first and most sacred” commitment
is to the current and total force: active duty, Guardsmen,
reservists, veterans and their families.
The Air Force has been at war since Desert Storm, despite
leaner forces and aging platforms, Carter said, continually
providing the United States the flexibility to demonstrate the
“example of our power and the power of our example anywhere in the
U.S. airmen, he said, have conducted two-thirds of all
airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant since last
September, enabling ground partners to reclaim territory ISIL took
In the west, Carter said, the U.S. sent airmen to Europe to
take face Russian aggression with NATO partners and deployed F-22
fighter jets to spearhead a persistent and dominant air, land and
sea presence in the region.
“Our strategic approach to [Vladimir] Putin's Russia is
strong and balanced and necessitates a new playbook for the NATO
alliance in which our airmen play a vital part,” the defense
Whether bringing swift relief to Nepal after its
devastating earthquake in April, or convening a global, orchestrated
effort to contain the Ebola virus in West Africa, the Air Force has
led the way, the secretary said.
A New National Security
Carter said he is committed to provide President Barack
Obama with candid, strategic advice and to implement the president's
“Every strategic decision we make should be a step toward
keeping us safe, protecting our country and protecting our allies
and friends,” he said.
After 14 years of war, the Air Force plays a critical role
as the military writ large embarks on a critical strategic
transition, adjusts its counter-insurgency focus and redoubles its
full-spectrum capabilities, Carter said.
The Asia-Pacific region encompasses nearly half of humanity
and accounts for more than half the world's economic power, Carter
said. And the Asia-Pacific region, he added, is where the Air Force
will position the majority of its high-end assets as part of
strategic rebalance efforts.
“We're working to align our security, economic and
diplomatic investments in the region to match our vital and growing
interests there,” he said.
The rebalance has long represented the sustainment of peace
and prosperity across the region and support of a security
architecture that is inclusive, capable and resilient enough to
ensure all nations have the opportunity to ascend, Carter said.
The Air Force strengthens its posture in the region with
tactical aircraft such as the F-22 in conjunction with space and
cyber forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
assets such as the MQ-9 and Global Hawk, the secretary said.
The United States will bolster and modernize infrastructure
across the Pacific, deepening security cooperation with
long-standing allies like Guam, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and
the Philippines, and with new partners such as India and Vietnam,
However, the secretary acknowledged relative complexities
in the relationship with China, noting that it is defined by
elements of both cooperation and competition.
“Our military engagement with China seeks to build
sustained and substantive dialogue to advance concrete, practical
cooperation in areas of mutual interest and to enhance risk
reduction measures to diminish the potential for miscalculation,” he
Concurrently, given concern over China's growing military
capabilities and coercive approach to disputes, Carter noted the
United States is taking prudent steps to prepare for heightened
Of the South China Sea disputes, the defense secretary
acknowledged the interest of the United States in slowing further
militarization and land reclamation and in promoting renewed
diplomacy focused on a lasting solution that protects the rights and
interests of all. “The United States will continue to protect
freedom of navigation and will reflect principles that have ensured
security and prosperity in this region for decades,” he said.
The Specter of Sequestration
Despite deep cuts in defense spending since fiscal year
2013, the national defense strategy's four pillars -- land defense,
multiple contingency response capability, sustainment of the
counter-terrorism campaign and response to cyber and space threats
-- remain sound, Carter said.
But with only 14 days remaining in the fiscal year, he
lamented the budget impasse that portends sequestration or another
“Without a negotiated budget solution in which everyone
comes together at last, we will again return to sequestration,
reducing discretionary funds to their lowest real level in a
decade,” the defense secretary said.
And, Carter explained, a continuing resolution can also
jeopardize national security and eventually result in a $38 billion
deficit in resources for the U.S. military if Congress elects to
pursue that path for a full year.
“What we have under sequestration or a long-term continuing
resolution is a straight-jacket,” the defense secretary said.
“Without reinvestment in recapitalization, without a long-term
budget horizon, we simply cannot achieve what [this event] has
brought us all together to achieve, which is reinventing the
By Amaani Lyle
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
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