Pearl Harbor-Hickam - In his last stop before leaving Hawaii, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter held a “troop talk” with the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard on Nov. 6 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH).
The event, which was held at hangar 19 at JBPHH, allowed service members from all five branches of the military to learn more about the evolving balance of forces in the Indo-Asian Pacific region. Carter also fielded questions from Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen that ranged from tensions in the South China Sea to sequestration and budget cuts.
How is China’s military going to affect our military budget in the future?
“There is no question we have some points of contention, some objections, especially regarding action in the South China Sea,” said Carter.
“These are things that should be resolved diplomatically. However, we reflect in our budget all potential military operations and take specific actions to make sure that we stay ahead when it comes to capabilities.”
Is maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea the responsibility of the U.S. or its regional partners?
“It is certainly the responsibility of the United States,” he said. “However, the regional partners should take responsibility as well. It is a global thing, it’s not just a South China thing. Freedom of navigation is critical to global commerce.”
Currently, most of the cuts made to the Pentagon have been non-strategic. What cuts would be made to the military as a whole on the strategic side?
“With respect to the general sequestration, as the Secretary of Defense I would always like to have more, I’ll admit,” he said.
“But we balance all of the cuts to each service and try to eliminate things that are least important to warfighting capability. Sometimes this is difficult. There are times when we are not permitted to make adjustments that we have recommended to POTUS, and Congress denies it because they’re worried about the impacts to their individual regions.”
Is there going to be a rebalancing of military efforts due to the amount of ‘fires’ we are working with in Europe, as far as border control, Ukraine, etc.? Will there be a realignment of our military forces?
“There will be a rebalance,” he said. “We have to be prepared at all times because change can happen at any moment. The capability to ‘fight tonight’ is important. You cannot take for granted what we have out here.”
Beyond questions from the audience, Carter stated his, and the United States’, goal throughout the Indo-Asian Pacific region is working toward peace and security where people can rise and prosper.
Carter also thanked the service members in attendance for their service and sacrifice.
“You are the rebalance,” he said to the audience. “Thank you all for your service, and do not forget to remember those who came before you. Most of you are not veterans yet, but you will be one day. And I would like to personally thank you all for what you do.”