By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2015 – Focusing on the difficulties that lie ahead of the Defense Department is easy, but now is also the time to embrace opportunity, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.
“Being back, I’m reminded how easy it is in Washington -- and in this building -- to focus solely on our challenges,” Carter said. “And it is indeed a turbulent, rough world out there. But as a nation and as a department, this is also a moment to continue to shine the beacon of American leadership and to seize the many bright opportunities in front of us.”
Carter was speaking at his ceremonial swearing in as the 25th secretary of defense, an event hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey at the Pentagon.
"As we know from Secretary Carter's long experience in the department, he is the right person to lead the Department of Defense at this point in our history -- not just for what he's done, but in particular for how he's done it,” Dempsey said.
“Secretary Carter's known for bringing judgment and candor to decisions, and for explaining those decisions in clear and honest language. This is something those of us in the armed forces very much appreciate,” the general noted.
Besides Dempsey, speakers included William J. Perry, the 19th defense secretary, and Justice Elena Kagan, who swore Carter in at the ceremony.
"Since 1947, there have been 24 people sworn in as the secretary of defense. None of them, none of them better qualified for this job than Ash Carter. Qualified by intellect, by temperament and by experience," Perry said before Carter was sworn in.
Carter served under Perry during the Clinton administration, and today called him “the model of a modern secretary of defense.”
“Our nation and the world are safer because of your leadership and intellect -- and also because of your civility,” Carter said of Perry.
Kagan said of Carter that, “If you walk around this town and talk to people, what everybody says is … he is the perfect man for this job, the consummate public servant, the person who by virtue of his experience and his judgment and his good sense and his brilliance will be able to deal with the challenges that this important office has.”
It is the highest honor to serve as America's 25th secretary of defense, Carter said.
“The men and women of this department will not only continue to protect our country, but also ensure we leave a more peaceful, prosperous and promising world to our children to live their lives, raise their families, dream their dreams,” he said.
American service members, DoD civilian employees and contractors are serving at home and abroad in support of U.S. national security interests, the secretary said.
“We are standing with our friends and allies against savagery in the Middle East,” Carter said. “In the Asia-Pacific, where new powers rise and old tensions still simmer and where half of humanity resides, we are standing up for a continuation of a decades-long miracle of development and progress underwritten by the United States.
“And in cyberspace,” he added, “we are standing with those who create and innovate against those who seek to steal, destroy and exploit.”
Think Outside the ‘Five-sided Box’
With budgets tightening and technology and globalization revolutionizing how the world works, the Pentagon has an opportunity to open itself to new ways of operating, recruiting, buying, innovating and much more, the secretary said.
“America is home to the world’s most dynamic businesses and universities. We have to think outside this five-sided box and be open to their best practices, ideas and technologies,” he said.
“… In realizing all these opportunities, previous generations and my recent predecessors … have blessed us with a remarkable inheritance: a more secure country, a stronger institution, and the world’s greatest military,” Carter said.
This generation owes the same legacy to those who come after it, the defense secretary said, something he will remember every day he is in office.
“Just as I wake up every day committed to putting in a day of service worthy of our extraordinary men and women in uniform,” he added.
Carter said his greatest obligations as defense secretary will be to help the commander in chief make wise and caring decisions about sending troops into harm’s way, to ensure troops have what they need to fight and win, and to ensure the welfare and dignity of service members and their families.
“Thank you for all that you do,” the defense secretary said to service members in the audience. “Thank you for the trust that you place in me. I will do my best to live up to it.”