By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, February 4, 2016 — Marines are the beating heart of readiness, and the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 defense budget request would invest in assisting the Marine Corps as it faces potential broad-spectrum threats, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, yesterday.
The secretary introduced the highlights of his budget investment priorities for the Corps in a troop talk at Miramar, which is home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the aviation element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
“We’re specifically making investments in the Marine Corps because of the necessary role it plays in our defense strategy,” Carter said.
The military is making a strategic transition with determination and with a budget request designed to meet global threats today and into the future, including the “relatively low-end, but still necessary-to-win conflicts, right up to higher end,” he said.
“You’re the first to fight, as the Marines always have been,” the secretary said, noting that Marines must be prepared for a variety of missions, including defeating Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists and keeping watch on nations such as North Korea and high-end potential competitors such as China and Russia, where deterrence is critical.
“We need to be ready and make it clear to them and anybody else who might come along in the future that if you tangle with the United States, … you’ll regret it,” he said.
And because Marines are deployed first, they know what’s needed to maintain a state of high readiness, crew proficiency and airframe availability, he said, adding that the new budget would invest in Marine Corps aviation.
Increased funding for the tactical air fleet would speed up maintenance on the older F-18 fighter jets and increase the number of F-35 joint strike fighters the Defense Department is buying for the Navy and Marine Corps, the secretary said. The CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter and other aircraft are also on the list , “because we need very high readiness,” he added.
“You’re our ready alert force,” he told the Marines. “You accomplish that mission all the time, but because we’ve called on you to do that a lot, you’ve worked yourselves and also your equipment very hard, and we’ve got to catch up a little [on] maintenance.”
Full-Spectrum Training Needed
Meeting new threats also requires full-spectrum training, Carter said.
“It’s important to get back to that, because we spent many years, of necessity, training … for [counterinsurgency] and because of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he noted. “Now we’re making the transition to a wider spectrum of needs.”
The secretary said he is proud of the Marines at Miramar. Along with their fellow service members, he said, they make up “the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” Maintaining that posture is important, both today and 20 years from now, he said.
“That’s why we’re constantly thinking about how we manage people, how we attract people, how we retain people, so in every generation we get people and keep people who are as good as you,” he said.
Fortifying NATO, Allies
Taking questions from audience members, Carter said Russia’s aggressive behavior exhibited since Vladimir Putin became president is a concern shared by the United States, its NATO allies and much of Europe, and that it likely could continue into the future.
“Therefore,” he said, “it is important that we fortify the defense of our NATO allies in Europe, [and] not just against sort of traditional types of potential aggression of the types we saw in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, but the ‘little green men’ phenomenon … called hybrid warfare. … As of the last year and a half or so, [we] have come fully to realize that we need to stand vigilant.”