By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanked soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, today for their past service and said they will be the “tip of the spear” for the new strategic era the world is entering.
Carter viewed exercises featuring Special Forces and airborne soldiers before holding a town hall meeting with troops.
“We have, as you well know, been understandably, totally and very successfully focused on Iraq and Afghanistan,” Carter said. “From the point of view of the proficiency and skill and dedication of you, there’s no question that it was a spectacular and remains a spectacular performance. This is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
Future Ops Rely on Agility, Rapid Impact
But that era is ending, and new challenges and threats are waiting, he said.
The strategy calls for the U.S. military to move in a different direction while still incorporating the lessons learned from 14 years of war. The American military must be proficient in responding to all levels of threats, he said, from full-spectrum operations against a peer opponent to “the sort of ISIL-type threat that poses a different set of problems.”
Operations in the future will rely on combat power built upon the agility and rapid impact of airborne and special operations forces and the other units that are represented at Fort Bragg, Carter said.
Protecting America is at the heart of this strategy, but at the same time there exists the mission of safeguarding the rest of the world, in part to prevent trouble from reaching the United States, Carter said. "But [also] in part because we have values we stand for and very few countries can combine the principles and values that we stand for with the awesome combat power that you represent.”
Carter addressed the Army drawdown from 490,000 active duty soldiers to 450,000 over the next two fiscal years. The reductions were introduced five years ago and coincided with the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the secretary said. “It’s a reshaping of the force,” he said. We've tried to do it in a measured and steady way, but that’s where we are going.”
The re-sizing is being done for strategic reasons -- to free up money and resources for other priorities. The military must keep a balance between today’s readiness and being set for the future. Pay and benefits, force structure, training and modernization must be in balance, the secretary said. The re-shaping helps to do this.
Modern Challenges of Service
Carter believes the other services will follow the Navy’s lead on giving 18 weeks of maternity leave for sailors and Marines. “We need really good people, but really good people also want a life,” the secretary said. He noted that in most military families, the spouse works outside the home and service members now deploy far more than in the past.
“Military life will never be like life elsewhere –- you make a sacrifice because you love the country and you love being part of something bigger than yourself,” Carter said. “But we shouldn't make that sacrifice bigger than it has to be. We've got to keep thinking, sensing and adjusting, not just living with old regulations that harken back to a different era.”