Secretary Carter says future is bright for DOD

Wikimedia image: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter holds a press conference with local media at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on March 18, 2013. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said goodbye after a long career at the Pentagon.

In his penultimate day as secretary of Defense, Ash Carter reflected on 35 years of transition at the Pentagon and said the one constant has been the commitment to the mission of defending America.

In his farewell remarks to DOD personnel, Carter quipped that there's a "lot less cigarette smoke" in the halls of the Pentagon compared to when he started, but "the whole force is higher quality, vastly more experienced and draws high talent more widely from all of America than was the case back then. And we're better and stronger because of it."

Carter worked his way up through the ranks of the DOD, holding such positions as assistant secretary of defense for International Security Policy, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and deputy secretary of defense.

In his career, Carter focused heavily on acquisition reform and innovation, and in recent years he oversaw the standup of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the Defense Innovation Board, the Defense Digital Service and the Strategic Capabilities Office -- initiatives he trumpeted in his remarks.

"When I started my career in physics," Carter said, "most technology of consequence originated in America, and much of that was sponsored by government, especially the DOD."

Carter added that "we're still major sponsors today, but much more technology is commercial. The technology base is global. And other countries have been trying to catch up with the breakthroughs that for the last several decades made our military more advanced than any other. So we've had to make sure we stay ahead and stay the best."

Carter often clashed with Congress on budget matters and on congressional efforts to reform the acquisition process or put the brakes on some of his innovation programs like DIUx.

The outgoing secretary and his team vociferously opposed the provision in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that mandates the split of the undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics into two new undersecretary positions for Acquisition and Sustainment and Research and Engineering.

But, Carter kept the barbs out of his farewell remarks and focused on thanking DOD staff for the work they do to protect the nation and the American people.

"And because you do so," he said, "I will walk out of the Pentagon tomorrow, as I have every night of my tenure, confident that our nation's -- and this department's -- future is bright."

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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