The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not shy away from controversy during his Facebook Town Hall held today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey answered questions submitted to him on the website just as he would during an All Hands event at a military base. The audience for this one, however, was worldwide.
He addressed the issue of sexual assault in the military saying the services are changing the way these cases are handled.
“We have to fight this crime that so erodes the trust upon which our profession is built,” the chairman wrote. “We’ve welcomed the help of Congress and others to create a ‘constellation’ of policies around unit commanders to both assist them and to hold them accountable.”
He told those who submitted questions on sexual assault that he meets with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this subject often. “We’re tracking trends, making changes, reinforcing best practices and applying resources,” he said. “We want to be the best institution in the land at combatting this crime as we are at combatting other threats.”
The chairman also discussed military suicides and post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. After rising for years, suicides are now trending down in the military, the chairman said. “We’re heavily invested in understanding PTS and suicide, from research to treatment,” the general said. “Our services have also taken innovative measures, for example, the Army and NFL have partnered to study traumatic brain injury, and we have organizations like the Defense Centers of Excellence which also offers programs for families.”
Finally, the chairman spoke about social media, saying the military has benefited greatly from its speed, mobility and the interaction. Still, those benefits come with risks. “We’ve been working to emphasize the opportunity for leaders to positively influence military culture and discipline by getting involved in the space and being role models online as they are in units,” the chairman wrote. “I’ve also watched social media’s role in exposing the military experience to the citizens we defend, ranging from humor to debate.”
But there are also dangers to the media, and young people he said, need “to be thoughtful regarding their on-line presence.”
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The Defense Department has offered the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons a technical solution for removing the worst chemical weapons from war-torn Syria by Dec. 31 and is readying the capability for early January if the OPCW accepts, senior defense officials said here today.
Speaking on background to reporters at the Pentagon, the officials described what they called a field-deployable hydrolysis system, or a system that uses heat, water and bleach-like chemicals to turn some chemical weapon components into low-level hazardous waste that can be commercially stored in accordance with environmental laws.
“Last winter, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed Undersecretary Frank Kendall to chair a senior integration group to look at technologies that could be applied to the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile because we knew at some point the international community would need capabilities to destroy the stockpile,” a senior official said.
The OPCW has performed a thorough inspection of the Syrian stockpile, the official said, adding that the quantity is in the hundreds of tons.
The chemicals DOD will help destroy will be mustard gas, an agent that blisters the skin and injures tissues, and components of the nerve agents sarin and VX, the official said. The stockpile is mostly in bulk liquid storage, not in filled artillery shells or munitions.
“Based on that understanding we analyzed various technologies including incineration and decided to use a proven technology that we had a lot of experience with in U.S. cases where we had to deal with bulk liquid chemicals of this nature in Newport, Ind., and in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in the 2000s,” the official said.
The technology is a hydrolysis system or neutralization technology, he explained, which essentially mixes the chemicals with water and sodium hypochlorite bleach and produces a very low-level waste or effluent.
“We’ve used this proven technology, but then designed it in a way that it would be transportable. The heart of the field-deployable hydrolysis system fits within two standard shipping containers,” the official said.
“At the time we designed it to be geography independent and user independent,” he added. “We just didn’t know whether it would be used on land in a neighboring country -- perhaps even inside Syria in support of some multinational effort or, as we’ve now come to, on a ship at sea.”
Last winter the Defense Department began a rapid acquisition effort to fabricate the field-deployable hydrolysis system units, the official said, adding that three units are now fully fabricated.
Two units are being outfitted onto a vessel called the Cape Ray from the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration. If the OPCW accepts DOD’s offer, the ship will be used for neutralization operations at sea next year, at a location to be determined, the official said.
The hydrolysis units are being mounted below deck inside an enclosure with special carbon filters, along with an analytical laboratory. Ship personnel are being trained and the ship is being prepared to sail early next year, the official added.
As neutralization operations are being conducted aboard the ship, they will be verified by OPCW inspectors, the official said. Also aboard will be about 100 DOD civilians and contractors, including ship operators, security personnel and others.
“Nothing will be dumped at sea,” the defense official said. “The inert byproduct [of the neutralization process] will be treated to reduce its acidity and then stored in international-standards-organization approved containers and kept on the ship until their eventual disposition at a commercial waste-treatment facility.”
To ensure the chemicals are packaged in accordance with international standards for shipping such hazardous chemicals, the department last week provided the United Nations with more than 2,000 proper containers, he said.
The Defense Department has decades of experience in the chemical demilitarization business, the senior defense official said.
“We have programs underway to destroy our own Cold War chemical weapons arsenal and we’ve helped other countries through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program,” he said.
“We’ve worked with the Russian Federation to help them build a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch´ye which is used today to destroy Russia’s nuclear weapons,” the official said, adding, “We’ve also worked with Albania to destroy chemical weapons that were left over from the Cold War, and we’ve worked with Libya.”
Details of the process are still being worked out, but the senior defense official said the next step will be to have an international partner support the OPCW Joint Mission, which consists of the U.N. and the OPCW, by receiving about 150 shipping containers of chemicals at the port of Latakia in Syria, and then at another place that has not yet been determined.
From that point, they would be transferred to the Cape Ray, which would take from 45 to 90 days to destroy the chemicals, the official said.
“In terms of the timing, the U.S.-Russian Framework Agreement and the Security Council Resolution and the relevant OPCW Executive Council decisions lay out target dates,” he added, “and our goal of course is to meet those target dates of destruction by June.”
Another senior defense official said the department sees the assistance offered to OPCW as an international effort.
“There are many opportunities for countries to contribute, both to the funds that have been established by the United Nations and the OPCW but also directly to the destruction effort,” the senior official said, “and we are engaging with partners to pull that group together.”
The Syrians are taking the process very seriously, the official added.
“They’ve recognized that they bear a lot of responsibility for getting the materials safely delivered and they’re working closely with the OPCW, the U.N. and the Joint Mission to conduct that part of the operation safely and effectively,” the official said.
“Obviously it’s a challenging environment and they’re working through that and taking security into consideration every day,” the official added.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)
It was the quietest Town Hall Army in which Gen. Martin E. Dempsey has ever taken part.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted his first Town Hall on Facebook today, answering questions sent to him on the ubiquitous site from around the world.
The chairman logged onto his Facebook account at 1:45 p.m. EST from his E-Ring office. He looked at suggested replies written by his staff to the hundreds of questions sent in, and proceeded to rewrite them as he answered on line.
The session was supposed to last half an hour, but Dempsey stretched it to almost 50 minutes. “These people took the time to write and submit these questions,” he said after the session. “It’s important I take the time to answer them.”
The chairman dealt with topics ranging from budget cuts to China, and from sexual assault to commissaries.
He took on rumors that DOD will close stateside commissaries, responding that the department has no plans to do so. However, the directors of the Defense Commissary Agency have been tasked to look at a range of options “including how they would operate with less or no taxpayer subsidies,” Dempsey said. “We’ve got to drive toward greater efficiencies and this is just one of the potential areas.”
All aspects of the DOD budget need to be examined for savings, he said. “We’re well aware of the need for acquisition reform as well as the need to reduce unnecessary infrastructure and retire unneeded weapons systems,” the general said. “All of the institutional reforms are intended to produce a single outcome: the best trained and best equipped service men and women on the planet.”
Consideration will be given to how changes will affect service members, their families and retirees, he said.
The chairman gave a quick run-down on the fiscal 2014 budget saying that a House-Senate budget conference is currently looking at offsetting some of the sharp spending reductions that have been imposed by the budget sequester, but the outcome of those talks is uncertain, he said.
“We certainly don’t want to see a repeat of last October, and we’re doing our part to articulate the challenges we’re facing,” Dempsey said, referring to the partial government shutdown that kept hundreds of thousands of government employees off the job without pay during an impasse over spending.
Many taking part in the town hall were concerned about China declaring an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea. The chairman stressed the United States does not recognize the Chinese zone. “We continue to fly in the area because it’s international air space, not sovereign territory,” he said. “In short, our military operations will not change.”
Dempsey also took a longer view of Sino-U.S. relations. “From a realist perspective, nations will act in their interests all the time. China is no different,” he said. “So as the dynamics in the region continue to change (and they are always changing), we must build stronger military-to-military relationships with the (Peoples Liberation Army). We must seek avenues and mechanisms to avoid miscalculation.”
The United States must continue to work with allies and strengthen relations with other Asia/Pacific nations. “We’ve been clear with the Chinese that territorial disputes should not be resolved unilaterally and through coercion,” the chairman said. “We all benefit from stability in the Pacific, and I assess that the Chinese are clever enough to realize that.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here late today ahead of this weekend’s Manama Dialogue, where he will speak on U.S. security strategy in the Middle East.
Hagel noted during a press conference yesterday that even as it focuses more attention on the Asia-Pacific, the United States is fully engaged around the world.
“Our interests, the United States of America's interests, are the world's interests,” he said. “Our interests are not defined by one region or one country or one area.”
Senior officials traveling with the secretary described the major points of his upcoming address as threefold: the U.S. security posture in the region has not changed; the Defense Department seeks to help partners in the region strengthen their own military capabilities; and America will continue to work to strengthen ties with and among the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
“This region has been a priority of his since he came into office,” one official said. As a senator, Hagel led the first U.S. Congressional delegation to the Manama Dialogue in 2004, the official noted.
Hagel “has spent a tremendous amount of energy developing our partnerships in this part of the world,” the official said. During this visit, he said the secretary will listen to allies’ concerns and reassure them that nothing has changed in the U.S. defense posture, long-standing relations, partnerships and the nation’s “high ambitions for our defense engagement in the region.”
The interim agreement with Iran on its nuclear program and the ongoing conflict in Syria are likely to be central topics of the secretary’s meetings with other ministers here, the official acknowledged.
On his flight to Bahrain, Hagel spoke by telephone to United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, according to Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog. Hagel underscored to the minister the U.S. commitment to the security of the United Arab Emirates and its allies and partners in the Gulf, Woog said.
Hagel and the Crown Prince also discussed a range of shared security challenges in the region, Woog said, including Iran and Syria, and the two leaders agreed to continue to cooperate closely on these and other mutual interests over the next several months.
Hagel also underscored the United States’ commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and noted that the Joint Action Plan recently agreed to between the P5+1 and Iran is a first, good step towards advancing that commitment, said Woog, noting that Hagel and the Crown Prince agreed to continue close consultation.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry described the agreement reached with Iran last month as “a first step.” Iran has agreed to halt parts of its nuclear program and relinquish its stockpiles of enriched uranium.
Kerry said in November that the “P5+1” countries that have negotiated with Iran over its nuclear program since 2006 -- the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany -- will “roll up our sleeves and keep working with the parties at the table in order to reach a final, comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon and that the nuclear program that they do have will be entirely peaceful. And that has to be absolutely verifiable.”
In his background remarks today, one official called the agreement a “glimmer of hope in diplomacy with Iran” but added, “The United States is very clear-eyed about the threats.”
Another official said Hagel’s long-standing relationships with regional leaders stemming from his years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contribute to his warm reception here.
Many regional leaders “have indicated that they really trust [Hagel] and respect his voice when it comes to Iran,” the official said. The secretary’s visit here is part of a coordinated outreach effort by the Obama administration to ensure that a message of unwavering commitment “is delivered to all of our Gulf partners,” he said.
Responding to a question on China, the official said the United States “does not recognize … [and] urges China not to implement” the Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, which China has declared near a set of islands that Beijing and Japan both claim. U.S. military flights will operate in the area without change, he said.
While in Bahrain, the secretary will visit service members here, particularly those in the Navy’s 5th Fleet headquartered here.
Hagel will travel to Qatar later in the week.
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The U.S. military boosted its alert status across the Middle East following today’s reported militant bombing of a defense ministry hospital in Yemen.
The alleged attack, which occurred in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital city, reportedly killed dozens of people.
"The United States military has increased its regional alert status following the terrorist attack on the Yemeni Republic Ministry of Defense. The United States military is fully prepared to support our Yemeni partners in the wake of this incident," a senior defense official said on background.
“The United States condemns the terrorist attack against the Yemeni Ministry of Defense, which resulted in the senseless killing and wounding of dozens,” U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.
“We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims,” Harf added. “We stand with Yemen against this violence and remain firmly committed to supporting the Yemeni people as they seek to conclude the National Dialogue and move forward peacefully with Yemen’s historic democratic transition.”
The efficiency reforms announced yesterday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are about leading by example, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Jim Miller said today.
Across-the-board cuts to the defense budget have affected nearly every corner of the Pentagon, but the present uncertainty in defense budgeting is only part of the reason for the changes, Miller said.
There are actually five issues driving the reforms, he said. First, Congress directed that a number of deputy under secretary positions be eliminated. Hagel announced yesterday that five of these positions would be eliminated -- all of them non-presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed.
"We're going to consolidate from essentially seven reporting lines under the under secretary to five assistant secretaries -- to meet Congressional guidance," Miller said.
The second issue is budget, he said. By fiscal year 2019, the defense budget must be reduced by 20 percent, and the number of personnel has to be reduced by about the same amount, the under secretary said. "That will be done systematically and in stages," he said.
"Third, the reality is that the world is changing," Miller said. "We have seen increasing threats to the homeland. ... The most obvious is in cyberspace," he said, adding that threats are also on the rise from outer space and weapons of mass destruction.
Additionally, as other nations face the same budget challenges as the U.S., Miller said, "The need to really think of security cooperation as a driving element of strategy is even greater than it has been in the past." Therefore, even the overall number of OSD personnel is being reduced; the department is actually adding a deputy assistant secretary who will focus on security cooperation.
And fourth, Hagel wants to take better advantage of the expertise of Andrew Marshall, the director of the Office of Net Assessment. The office serves as a sort of internal think tank for the Defense Department, responsible for identifying emerging or future threats and opportunities for the United States. The office will now report to the under secretary for policy, Miller said.
"It will retain an independent voice," he added. "Moving it closer is intended to help that 'out-of-the-box' and more 'out in the future' thinking have even a greater role in the development of strategy and policy."
Finally, Miller said, as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan draws down and with Iraq operations ended, the raison d'etre for the Task Force on Business and Stability Operations has faded. Many of its functions will be transferred to other government agencies and outside groups, principally the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development -- by the end of 2014.
"It's been particularly valuable for helping the Afghans begin to develop their potential for mineral exploitation, oil and gas exploitation and, in some cases, small businesses and building entrepreneurship," he said.
This is not the first time OSD Policy has reorganized, Miller said. As the Defense Department evolved following 9/11, so too did the policy office. Additional emphasis on strategy and global strategic affairs followed the terrorist attacks, he said, and led to the creation of new deputy under secretary positions for each. Those positions have been eliminated in the reorganization and their functions will be folded into other offices, Miller noted.
There are about 500 military and civilian personnel assigned to OSD Policy. The reforms will reduce that number by 12 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, and contract support personnel will be reduced by a third over the same period. Cuts to the entire Defense Department are expected to save at least $1 billion over five years and reduce OSD staffing by about 200 personnel.
“We are going to make the organizational changes in several phases over 2014, and the reduction in funding and personnel systematically, thoroughly, thoughtfully over the next five years,” the under secretary said.
A workforce implementation team stood up recently to help ease the department through the transition, Miller said. “That will stay with us for some time as we systematically work through this,” he added.
“I am confident, and the [defense] secretary is confident … that with these changes we will continue to be able to support him effectively and we will continue to be able to perform our mission effectively,” Miller said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter @rouloafps)
First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday hosted a group of military spouses and children during a preview tour of this year’s festive Christmas holiday decorations adorning the rooms of the White House.
Tributes to U.S. service members and their families are abundant in White House holiday décor, the first lady noted when she greeted military family members in the East Room.
“Your sacrifice and service to this country [and] your families’ stories are such an important part of our great American story -- stories that remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season,” she said.
In that holiday spirit, children in the audience got a chance to go with Obama to an adjoining room where they made crafts and holiday gifts with her help, in addition to volunteers and White House chefs, bakers and florists.
And decorating the White House for the holidays was no easy undertaking.
Obama said more than 80 volunteers from around the country -- including military spouses -- began decorating the White House the day after Thanksgiving.
Military families give a lot of their time volunteering in addition to taking care of business at home while their loved ones are deployed, the first lady said.
“You are serving our nation, volunteering in your communities every day,” Obama told the families. She said a survey shows 81 percent of military family members volunteered in the past year.
While thinking of service members who will be deployed this holiday season, Obama said she’s reminded of the thousands who will awake in the middle of the night in a remote part of the world to use Skype to call home and read a special holiday story to their children, and will be on screen Christmas day to see their kids open presents from Santa.
She commended military families for spending hours filling holiday care packages for their service members to help them experience the holidays while deployed.
And deployed troops who can’t be home for the holidays find ways “to make the season bright” by banding together with others to create special military celebrations and traditions, Obama noted.
“No matter what challenges you all face –- during the holidays or any other time during the year, you … find ways to make it work and you do it with such strength and humor and grace,” she told the families.
Obama said she hopes Americans keep U.S. service members and their families in their thoughts during this holiday season.
“As we gather with our loved ones, I’d ask every American to remember what our military families and service members often experience during this time of year,” she said. “Let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us.”
Some of this year’s White House holiday highlights include:
-- Nearly 15 rooms and passageways displaying 24 large Christmas trees;
-- A tree decorated in tribute to service members, decorated with Gold Star Families’ ornaments for those who made the ultimate sacrifice;
-- The oval Blue Room, home to the official White House Christmas tree, an 18 1/2-feet tall, 11-feet wide Pennsylvania Douglas fir, covered in 2,000 ornaments of holiday cards made by service members' children, photos of deployment homecomings and fabric ornaments with each state and territory’s silhouette on them;
-- The East Garden Room trees made from stacks of books;
-- Cross Hall, where trees reflect gathering around the nation’s heritage, decorated with ornaments representing great American sites such as the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore;
-- The “First Dog” display, a mechanical Bo and Sunny dog duo -- made from 1,000 yards of satin ribbon -- engaged in play; and
-- A 300-pound gingerbread White House that sits atop the State Dining Room fireplace mantel, surrounded by trees made of sugar.
The White House expects about 70,000 visitors for the holidays this year, Obama said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)
The Defense and State departments will continue to implement a strategy for “careful, calibrated” reengagement with the Burmese military in pursuit of peace, a senior Pentagon official told the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific here yesterday.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Vikram J. Singh said the military in Burma remains critical to the ultimate success of reform efforts and a full transition to democracy.
“The Burmese military is positioned to continue supporting the government’s reform program and is interested in taking steps to modernize, professionalize and reform itself,” Singh said.
The reengagement, witnesses explained, is part of an overall plan to bring reconciliation to Burma, also known as Myanmar, which is torn by sectarian strife.
But, Singh said, U.S. government officials remain cognizant that the Burmese military retains a prominent role in political and economic life.
“It is very clear that a meaningful and sustainable transition for this country and for its military will take many years,” he said.
Given the complexities of the military’s role in Burma, U.S. policy supports continued encouragement for reform and enhancement in the military’s ability to respect human rights and civilian authority and control, Singh explained.
“The steps … are in line with the recommendations of a range of Burmese stakeholders, including members of the opposition and ethnic groups, who urge us to carefully engage the armed forces to build their support for the reform agenda and to help the military itself modernize and transform,” he said.
Although diplomatic engagements with Burma in recent years have been limited, relations have evolved following exchanges by the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies on human rights law and the Law of Armed Conflict, Singh said.
“Our limited engagements … have begun to expose the military to international norms of behavior and foster some new trust and understanding,” he said.
As such, DOD and State Department officials see value in engagements that would support institutional changes required to promote better civil military relations, increased transparency and greater civilian oversight, Singh said.
Engagement efforts include targeted education and training related to civilian control of the military, military justice improvement in accordance with internationally recognized human rights, proper management of defense resources and cooperation between the police and military for counter-narcotics.
“Under current sanctions, we lack any kind of dedicated mechanism for this kind of reform-oriented engagement with the Burmese military,” Singh said.
Singh acknowledged there may be initial skepticism in the efficacy of reform efforts but he nonetheless remains confident in a positive outcome.
“We do believe we have an opportunity to engage for the first time in decades with a military and government in Burma open to implementing reforms and accepting U.S. advice to that end,” he said.
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The Department of Defense today announced the transfer of Djamel Saiid Ali Ameziane and Bensayah Belkecem from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Algeria, according to a DOD news release.
As directed by the president's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases, according to the release. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were designated for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force, the release said.
In accordance with congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals, according to the release.
The United States is grateful to the government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the release said. The United States coordinated with the government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place with appropriate security and humane treatment assurances, the release said.
Today, 162 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, according to the release.
The Defense Department’s senior leaders announced changes today in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff designed to save money and better align the department’s structures and resources.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed decisions made as part of the Strategic Choices and Management Review during a press briefing here.
“With the Pentagon confronting historically deep and steep, and abrupt spending reductions after a decade of significant budget growth,” Hagel said, “there is a clear need and an opportunity … to pare back overhead and streamline headquarters across this department.”
“And that is a result of, really, an era of post-9/11 that we have appropriately been focused on … to secure this country.”
Hagel explained how the Strategic Choices and Management Review, led by former Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, developed options to “help DOD plan for a range of future budget scenarios.”
“Included in the Strategic Choices and Management Review was a comprehensive look at a savings,” he said, “all savings that could be achieved by reducing overhead throughout the department and streamlining organizations, including OSD and the Joint Staff.”
Hagel’s briefing today was a follow up to his announcement several months ago that DOD would reduce major headquarters operating budgets by 20 percent over the next five years.
“These reductions are only a first step in DOD's efforts to realign defense spending to meet new fiscal realities and strategic priorities,” he said.
Hagel noted these were “difficult, but necessary choices” on compensation reform, force structure, acquisitions, and other major parts of DOD to remain ahead for the department.
“These choices will be much more difficult if Congress fails to halt sequestration and fully fund the president's budget request,” he said.
Hagel said he directed each of his principal staff assistants to begin implementing their plans to meet the 20 percent budget reductions by fiscal year 2019.
“The OSD reductions are comprehensive, touching many aspects of our organization, personnel and resources,” he said.
The defense secretary laid out eight OSD reductions in accordance with the review and announced the following changes:
• Restructuring of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, based on an extensive internal review of the organization, led by the current undersecretary defense for policy, Jim Miller.
• Realignment of the Office of the Director of Administration and Management, and its components, under the DCMO structure to provide better coordination and integration of DOD's business affairs, including performance management and compliance, to result in a much stronger and more empowered deputy chief management officer.
• The transfer of specific responsibility for business information technology systems from the DCMO to DOD’s chief information officer in order to strengthen DOD’s ability to address growing IT and cyber challenges.
• Combining the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight, and the Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Offices into a single office aligned under the new DCMO organization.
• The Office of Net Assessment will report to the undersecretary of defense for policy to better ensure its long-range comparative analysis.
• A rebalancing of resources by the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness across the office’s three assistant secretaries of defense in order to sharpen P&R’s focus on force management, force readiness, and military health care and military compensation and retirement reform.
• Planning will move forward for the undersecretary of defense for intelligence on how its mission and focus should evolve after the drawdown of the post-9/11 conflicts, including staffing levels, organizations, and programs.
• Approved plans for eliminating the five remaining deputy undersecretaries of defense who are not presidentially appointed or Senate confirmed, fulfilling direction from the Congress.
Hagel said to further improve the management of OSD, he is directing additional longer-term follow-up actions, and directing a bi-annual review to establish a regular assessment of the office’s requirements.
“Most of the reductions in OSD staff that I’ve announced today will occur through a process of natural attrition in order to minimize the impact on our workforce,” he said. “If the department is forced to take the steep sequestration cuts on the order of $500 billion over the next 10 years, we may need to implement additional reductions.”
Dempsey noted some things would have been done “whether or not we were faced with the Budget Control Act.”
“So just as he’s directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to make these changes, so, too, will the Joint Staff, the combatant commanders, the service chiefs, as well as three-star headquarters and above throughout the world,” he said.
The chairman cited pay compensation and health care as areas that “for some time” needed adjustment or slowing of their rate of growth. In addition, excess infrastructure needs consolidation or closing, and acquisition reform, he said, needs to “get out of this pattern where things are acquired and delivered too slowly and too expensively.”
“We can’t do that ourselves,” Dempsey said. “We’re going to need help across virtually each one of these areas, and we’ll be looking to gain support for that over time.”
More broadly, the chairman lauded the department for its versatility as “we entered our 13th year of combat in Afghanistan,” while simultaneously delivering supplies to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and maintaining a steady state of presence in the Arabian Gulf, in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in the Pacific as well as other diplomatic efforts.
“So as we consider how to maintain our military strength, we must always remember our real strategic advantage,” Dempsey said. “That [is], of course, the men and women who serve in uniform.”
“And so the purpose of all of the reform efforts that we’ve been describing here is aimed at ensuring that we preserve and actually enhance the leadership training and equipping of our forces,” he said.
“In so doing – and only in so doing,” Dempsey said, “will we be sure to keep our nation immune from coercion.”
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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised the members the Veterans Treatment Court Convention for their work in developing the innovative program designed to help veterans get their lives back on track.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the program, which grew out of a grass-roots effort in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008, is especially needed for a generation of service members that has lived through 12 years of repeated deployments into intense combat.
One of Dempsey’s focus areas as chairman is to find ways to integrate these veterans back into their communities. The vast majority of vets do so with few problems, but some have severe problems stemming from their service.
In 2008, Buffalo Judge Robert Russell noticed an increasing number of veterans coming to his court for drug and alcohol offenses who were clearly suffering from mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The courts work with the local VA to get these men and women the help they need. The most important part of the program is the mentoring that other veterans provide.
The idea has grown. Currently, there are 130 veterans treatment courts in the United States with many more planned, officials said. The convention here in Washington was the first where officials from around the country could meet to share experiences and best practices.
Dempsey said all those involved with dealing with veterans need to remind the communities of what the veterans bring back to their towns and cities.
“There are stereotypes that somehow always emerge after a conflict,” the chairman said. “It does them a great disservice if we brand them with stereotypes.”
Dempsey wants Americans to understand what veterans bring back home. This generation of veterans, he said, is adaptable.
“They changed the way we do military operations,” Dempsey said. “The enemies we confronted didn’t particularly comport themselves to our organizational designs or our way of waging war.”
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have demonstrated uncommon courage, the chairman said. The all-volunteer force, he noted, sustained itself and the families of those who served.
“Even today with 54,000 serving in Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands deployed elsewhere around the world, they and their families continue to bear up under the strain of sacrifice and family separation,” Dempsey said.
And, this generation of vets is resilient, the chairman said. That’s something that those who work with the veterans treatment courts know full well, the general said.
Dempsey tells audiences around America that they shouldn’t consider reaching out to veterans as an act of charity.
“They should reach out to veterans because what they get is someone who will contribute in an incredible way to their organizations,” he said.
Dempsey reminded the audience that this is not a new issue. He noted that Gen. George Washington delivered his farewell address to the Continental Army 230 years to the day. Washington wrote in his farewell, “With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I now most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”
The nation’s act of reintegrating its military veterans after wartime is older than the American Republic, Dempsey said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
U.S. Africa Command is making headway in helping militaries across Africa confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic through a program focused on prevention, care and treatment, a senior command official reported today.
“The whole focus is to reduce the incidence of HIV in foreign militaries,” Mike Hrshchyshn, chief of humanitarian and health activities for Africom’s Security Cooperation Programs directorate, said during a web chat commemorating World AIDS Day earlier this week.
The office oversees the strategic direction of the Defense Department’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program in Africa. Of more than 70 nations that participate in the DOD program, 45 are in Africom’s area of operations, Hrshchyshn reported.
HIV and AIDS represent a potential threat to Africa’s regional security and stability, he said. The disease weakens national governments and economies and erodes the readiness of their militaries.
That degrades their effectiveness, not just within their own countries, but also in their ability to provide peacekeeping forces that support regional stability, he explained.
“Without militaries that are able to discharge their missions, … security starts to degrade,” Hrshchyshn said. “And not only does it have an impact on that specific country but also on a regional basis, beyond their borders.”
This vulnerability could provide opportunities for others to exploit in destabilizing ways, he said.
Since Africom’s standup five years ago, it has focused heavily on regional outreach through its Partner Military HIV/AIDS Program. The program’s goal is to help regional militaries reduce the incidence of HIV and AIDS within their ranks.
The effort, provided with strong support from the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego working in lock-step with embassy country teams, has been highly successful in increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS and ways to prevent it, Hrshchyshn reported.
The effort has reached nearly a half-million troops and their family members with educational programs about prevention and treatment, provided about 4,000 healthcare workers trained in HIV/AIDS care and treatment, and provided support to about 75,000 people living with the disease.
But Hrshchyshn said the impact goes far deeper, with every person who receives education and training amplifying the message through their daily personal and professional interactions. “They become force multipliers in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Recognition of the consequences of the disease -- and successes in confronting it -- makes nations eager to work together to confront it, he noted. Partner nations share state-of-the-art developments regarding HIV and AIDS during biennial conferences sponsored by DOD’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program. The most recent one, hosted by Mozambique in 2012, attracted representatives of 70-plus militaries from around the world. “That reflects the large global interest,” Hrshchyshn said.
That outreach is bearing fruit. “We have made considerable progress,” Hrshchyshn said. He noted one country that was losing two to three soldiers a day to AIDS at the program’s inception. Today, that figure has dropped to about one loss every 10 days.
“That gives you an idea of how dramatic the impact [has been] in reducing mortality,” he said. “The impacts have been considerable, across the board.”
Although the extent of the problem may be diminishing, Hrshchyshn said it’s too soon for Africom to declare success. “This is an area of focus we won’t take our eyes off of,” he said. “It will take a while, but I think we are on a solid path.”
As the United States assists African partner nations, its ultimate goal is “to build up the capacity and capability of our partners so they can take this issue on,” he said.
“They are best positioned in terms of sustainability,” he said. “So it is important that, whether it is on the military side or the civilian side, that they have been able to take the tools, the techniques, the technical assistance that we have provided [and] to mold that to their own cultural environment and then to … effectively design services to their citizens.”
Those efforts will pay off through “ready, able, healthy and well-trained African militaries that can do their part on the continent to provide a safer and secure environment” to support peacekeeping efforts and to reduce the likelihood of conflict, he said.
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)
Although military mobilizations are scaled down and unit deployments are no longer a primary mission set here due to the drawdown of troops overseas, hundreds of contractors from various agencies or contract companies from around the nation continue to deploy civilians to regions around world from Camp Atterbury.
That mission is called the Individual Replacement Deployment Operations -- better-known as IRDO. It is a world-class training program for deploying contractors and civilians who are authorized to accompany U.S. military forces in combatant commands operating overseas.
IRDO is a six-day, 40-hour program of instruction that runs from Sunday through Friday. According to Indiana Army National Guard Capt. Matthew Limeberry, IRDO operations officer, the program is designed to meet all command theater entry requirements and validates personnel prior to deployment.
“What makes Camp Atterbury and the IRDO operation so unique is, first off, our walking campus,” Limeberry said.
The operation also provides excellent customer service, he said.
“We give them [civilians] the individual detail that they would demand as you would walk into any store on the market, Limeberry said. “We greet them with a smile on day zero and we’re by their side the entire time.”
Lisa Mickles, who hails from Corinth, Miss., is a Department of the Army civilian assigned to the 59th Signal Battalion and stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. She recently volunteered for the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program and is now in Afghanistan supporting logistics operations.
Prior to her departure to Afghanistan, Mickles was asked about her time at Camp Atterbury.
“I am a firm believer, that if the nation calls on us or our warfighters need us, that civilians should deploy to assist them,” she said. Mickles has deployed many times from other locations around the nation, she said, but this is her first visit to Camp Atterbury.
“Everything has run very smoothly,” Mickles said. “They’ve kept us on a schedule, but it has been open and flowing so we’ve had time to do things we need to do in order to deploy.”
Afghanistan-bound Otis Sutton, from Los Angeles, is a Department of Energy contractor working for Airscan Inc. He is also an Air Force veteran who served six years before departing the military in 2011. He very much wanted to be involved in military operations and believes his contract job offers him just that experience.
Sutton has deployed for other contractors before, he said. Atterbury’s civilian deployment training program is organized, he added.
“How they divide the teams up is actually kind of beneficial in deconflicting a lot of the same activities we have to do,” he said. “It really makes it easy to move through and get your requirements knocked out.”
IRDO representatives recently took some employers through multiple phases of the civilian deployment processing system here, to include visits to the central issue facility, the medical, finance and personnel processing sections, and the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle trainer.
One employer, Ivelina Konstantinova, a mobilization and deployment manager with Trace Systems in Tysons Corner, Va., said she was impressed with the operation.
Konstantinova said it was a great opportunity that the IRDO team proposed a seminar for deployment managers, which provided an overview of predeployment training for civilians and contractors.
“The team has done a marvelous job and I am very fortunate to come out and see what they did,” Konstantinova said. “You cannot tell your contractors what to expect without having been through the same process. You can tell them all the information that is out there, but if you actually go through the process and know what you need to expect then you are better prepared as individuals and as a company.”
Sheila Wines is a contract manager with Scitor Corporation in Reston, Va. She took the time to travel here to learn more about the training program and was pleased with how accommodating, well organized and detailed it is.
“We had the opportunity and the privilege of walking in the steps of what our people would do when they are processing and getting ready to deploy,” Wines said.
Wounded warriors were honored at Aloha Stadium here during a Nov. 30 football game between the University of Hawaii’s Warriors and the Black Knights from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Many dignitaries attended the event, including U.S. Army Pacific commander and West Point graduate, Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks.
The game was special for several reasons, Brooks said.
“First, the military is being appreciated. I think that’s the most important thing,” Brooks said. “Then, especially, those who have taken on wounds while serving our nation. It’s important to recognize there’s an extra burden that they carry and also to let them know they’re not alone.”
The festivities began before the game with a ceremony honoring Hawaii’s Outstanding Military Spouses for 2013. The wounded warriors and active-duty service members were honored at halftime.
The halftime program kicked off with the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Service Color Guard leading soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, Marines from the Combat Logistics Battalion III from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, sailors from the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin and airmen from Pacific Air Forces, both stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony also included U.S. Coast Guard members from the 14th Coast Guard District.
One of the wounded warriors, information systems technician Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christian Pollock, served two tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan and one tour in the Arabian Gulf. Pollock currently is stationed here with U.S. Pacific Command.
“I think it’s very important to bring light to the situation,” Pollock said. “People come back who have physical and mental problems, so we need to make sure we take care of our guys when they get back.”
When asked how it felt to be honored by such a large group of people, Pollock responded, “It always feels good when you’re appreciated for your hard work.”
After halftime the Black Knights continued to give their all, but at game’s end they were outscored by the Warriors, 49-42.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is looking forward to interacting with a range of people during a town hall meeting on Facebook this week.
Questions already are coming in to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s Facebook page, with more than 150 questions and comments so far over a wide range of topics.
People can submit questions in the comments section on the chairman’s Facebook page or vote for questions they want answered during the session, which starts Dec. 5 at 1:45 p.m. EST. The chairman will answer the questions from his Pentagon office.
Dempsey sees the town hall as a way to see what people are thinking across a range of audiences and to be able to interact with them on a personal level, said Air Force Col. Ed Thomas, the chairman’s spokesman. “The chairman believes in the value of social media,” he added. “He sees it as a way to reach out and get two-way interactions on issues, and a way to connect with the larger force and the public.”
The Facebook town hall continues the chairman’s outreach efforts. Every time he travels, he makes it a point to speak with service members, and he often holds news conferences in the Pentagon briefing room.
The most popular question so far asks if the chairman is taking song requests. He has been known to sing at some of his public events. On a more serious note, questioners from inside and outside the military are asking about the budget battles here, leader development, civilian-military relations and the future of the force.
People from Australia to Europe have asked questions about U.S. relations with China and North Korea, the military rebalance to Asia, the situation in Syria, and what happens in Afghanistan after 2014.
As of 4:30 p.m. EST today, the chairman had 35,843 followers on his Facebook page. If this event proves successful, Thomas said, Dempsey will host more.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today that President Barack Obama has nominated Christine H. Fox to serve as acting deputy defense secretary.
Fox is a “brilliant defense thinker and proven manager,” Hagel said.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter departs tomorrow, and Fox is scheduled to assume her duties the following day, making her the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the Defense Department. Until June, she served as the director of DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation.
"Over the last five years, Christine has played a key role in helping shape solutions to the core challenges facing the Department of Defense,” a senior defense official said.
Secretary Hagel relied on Fox’s judgment and deep analytical expertise during the Strategic Choices and Management Review earlier this year, the official said.
“As a key leader of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, she helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty,” Hagel said.
Fox’s appointment enables Hagel to add a senior manager to his leadership team at a pivotal moment for the department and permits the existing senior management team to remain in place and continue their critical leadership of the military services and DOD components, the official said.
“She will be able to help me shape our priorities from day one because she knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations better than anyone,” Hagel said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter @rouloafps)
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen opened the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels today welcoming the Loya Jirga’s endorsement of the U.S.-Afghan security accord and urging the Afghan government give it a “timely signature.”
“The recent Loya Jirga showed very clearly the progress Afghanistan is making,” he said. “The Afghan forces did a remarkable job in ensuring that a gathering of such scale took place in a peaceful manner. And the participants delivered a clear message for continued partnership and cooperation.”
Speaking to reporters at the two-day ministerial, Rasmussen called the bilateral agreement important to the legal framework for the NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces post-2014.
“We will be working closely with the Afghan government in the weeks ahead on this issue,” he said.
Afghan security forces “are already quite capable. But we do believe that they need our continued assistance, and that’s why we are prepared to deploy the so-called Resolute Support mission to Afghanistan,” Rasmussen said.
“My concern is that if we are not able to deploy a training mission to Afghanistan, it may have a negative impact on the security situation … [and] on the provision of financial aid to Afghanistan,” he said. It could also jeopardize pledges to finance the Afghan security forces and provide development assistance to the country, he noted.
Everything, he emphasized, hinges on a signed security agreement.
“It is clear that if there is no signature on the legal agreement, there can be no deployment and the planned assistance will be put at risk,” Rasmussen said. “It is my firm hope and intention, therefore, to continue our efforts to support Afghanistan once these agreements are concluded.”
Attendees at the foreign ministers’ sessions in Brussels are meeting with International Security Assistance Force partners and the Afghan foreign and interior ministers to discuss current operations and get updated on preparations for next year’s elections, he reported.
They kicked off meetings today with discussing about NATO’s summit next year in the United Kingdom. The summit is expected to focus on ensuring the alliance remains “fit, outward-looking and ready to respond to the challenges the future will bring,” Rasmussen said.
“There, we will chart the future of this alliance,” he said.
In one of his last acts as deputy defense secretary, Ash Carter signed a memorandum putting in place a DOD instruction designed to streamline the acquisition process, Pentagon officials announced yesterday.
DOD Instruction 5000.02, entitled the Operation of the Defense Acquisition System and signed Nov. 26, is an interim document put in place, “to create an acquisition policy environment that will achieve greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending and effectively implement the department’s Better Buying Power initiatives.”
The interim instruction replaces one signed Dec. 8, 2008.
One purpose of the new instruction is to include a number of statutes and regulations that have been passed and adopted since 2008, said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
The body of law that has developed over the decades since the Goldwater-Nichols Act passed in the mid-1980s places an extraordinary and unnecessarily complex burden on program managers and staffs, he said.
Kendall has tasked Andrew Hunter, the director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Office, to lead a team to suggest legislation to simplify the existing body of law and replace it with a more coherent and user friendly set of requirements.
“We will work closely with the Congress as we develop this proposal over the next few months,” he said.
The new 5000.02 is organized with the main body describing the steps and decision points in the acquisition process. While the acquisition outline will remain basically the same, the new instruction introduces two new decision points: the requirements decision point, and a development request for proposal release decision point.
The requirements decision point is the starting point for the requirements analysis and allocation system engineering process that culminates at the preliminary design review, Kendall said. This decision is also necessary to inform the request for proposal for the development phase.
The development request for proposal release decision point formalizes what acquisition professionals have already been doing, Kendall said.
“I regard this as the most important single decision point in the entire life cycle because the release of the engineering and manufacturing decision RFP sets in motion everything that will follow in the product’s life cycle,” he said.
Updating 5000.02 also provided an opportunity to integrate several of the Better Buying Power initiatives into the document, Pentagon officials said.
The interim instruction reinforces the importance and primacy of the acquisition chain of command, Kendall said. The bottom line is that acquisition executives, program executive officers and program managers are responsible and accountable for the programs they manage.
“Everyone else has a supporting or advisory role,” he said.
Kendall said the new 5000.02 will be in place in 180 days, but that “continuous improvement never ceases.”
He encourages acquisition professionals with ideas to continue to make the acquisition process as efficient and effective as it can be.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
With a month left before the start of tax season, service members should begin gathering documentation to file their 2013 taxes, the director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy and children and youth said.
In a recent interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Barbara Thompson suggested visiting the Military OneSource website for tax filing resources, and to learn what will be necessary to file, such as W2 forms, Social Security numbers and receipts for deductions such as child care, education, medical expenses and donations, among other write-offs.
And tax preparers at Military OneSource will do short-form tax filing free of charge for service members and their families, Thompson said.
Relocations and deployments have tax implications, Thompson noted. For example, deployed service members can receive an extension to file taxes after the normal April 15 filing date, she said. “It’s very helpful to have someone who is experienced to help you through the cumbersome issue of taxes and tax returns,” she added.
The tax preparers at Military OneSource are up to date on changes in tax laws, and can answer military-specific questions, Thompson said.
Installations also offer volunteer income tax assistance to service members and their families, while certain banks and credit unions provide education and training on tax preparation, Thompson said. She advised that service members organize their taxes by starting a file beginning each Jan. 1 for the following year’s tax papers, such as receipts and other write-offs.
“You don’t want to wait until the last minute,” she said.
Service members and families who prepare long-form taxes with deductions such as mortgages and rental properties might want to consider hiring a tax expert to file for them, Thompson said. “It’s best to get advice to make sure you have everything covered,” she added.
People who do their own taxes need to stay on top of current tax information, Thompson said. “Sometimes tax laws change, so you have to be really smart about doing your own taxes,” she added. States’ tax laws often vary, too, she said, and because of relocations, some service members have to file local taxes in more than one state.
“That’s where [tax consultants] can really be of great value to make sure you know what the requirements are for states,” Thompson said.
Filing federal and state tax returns usually results in either a tax return or money owed back to the government. Expecting to receive a tax return, but instead finding out that money is owed can be a shock, Thompson said. Looking at W2s to determine how much money in taxes is being withheld is a good indicator of whether or not one will owe money, she suggested.
Service members who receive a tax return face important decisions on what to do with the money, Thompson said.
“Do you use it to buy down debt, or put it in a savings account?” she asked, advising people to not blow their tax refunds in a spending frenzy of unnecessary purchases.
Tax return also is well-spent in a retirement savings account, she added. “It’s important to think about what you’re going to do with that money,” she advised, “and how you can best utilize it for your financial well-being.”
Meeting with a financial planner to learn the “lay of the land,” and what tax deductions might apply to a service member’s finances is a good idea, Thompson said. “It's really important to be savvy about that.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)
Senior Defense Department, White House and congressional leaders bade farewell to Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter today in a Pentagon ceremony marked by both laughter and tears.
Carter’s final working day is Wednesday, but today’s ceremony marked his official goodbye to the department.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff opened the ceremony by noting that an internet search for “Ashton,” brought up the actor Ashton Kucher before Ashton Carter. While the two share a first name, he laughed, according to Politico, Carter is more famous for making “think-tanker’s hearts flutter”.
Carter “worked without glamor or fame behind the scenes to make sure through good management, common sense and discipline that we are an organization that continues to adapt,” during his tenure with the department, the general said.
“I think he’s been called the most important, least known figure in Washington,” Dempsey added.
Carter, who served as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from April 2009 until his appointment as deputy secretary in October 2011, had one moment of fame, the chairman said.
During the recent sequestration-related furloughs of Defense Department employees, the deputy secretary — exempt from furlough — returned a fifth of his pay in solidarity with furloughed workers.
“He became known as the superhero of sequestration,” Dempsey said. “We did respect his willingness to put skin in the game, to be personally invested and to think big when many around him were thinking small.”
Long after Carter departs, the nation will continue to benefit from his unfailing focus on mission, on facts and what works, said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. McDonough also delivered remarks from President Barack Obama, who called Carter’s work “extraordinary.”
In his two tours at the Defense Department, Carter served under 11 defense secretaries, among them former secretary Leon E. Panetta, who sent his regards in a note read by Jeremy Bash, Panetta’s former chief of staff.
“I couldn't have done my job as secretary without you," Bash read. "You are the real deal -- a brilliant and compassionate patriot who brings as much heart to the cause of running the DOD as you do to the bedside of a wounded service member.”
The entire Defense Department has benefitted from Carter’s leadership, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“His career in public service is a model for all who aspire to real and effective public service,” Hagel said.
The secretary noted that Carter’s practical vision gave hope to those who strive for better things.
“Throughout his career, Ash Carter has shown again and again that he can translate his high ideals into better, more efficient, more effective ways of doing business for our department, for our people and for our country,” Hagel said. “In the course of those efforts, he's made a better world ... He is a reformer.”
Hagel presented Carter with the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service with a gold palm, the highest civilian award presented by the secretary of defense. Carter also received the Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest civilian award given by the DOD.
“It’s been the greatest privilege of my life,” Carter said of his time as deputy defense secretary. “Nobody accomplishes anything in this building without other people,” he said, noting that he was blessed with a spectacular team of colleagues.
Carter spoke about his hopes for the future, starting with a chance to win in Afghanistan. “Winning is truly within our grasp,” he said. A win means Afghanistan's people can have a decent, secure life, and America retains its reputation for keeping its commitments to its friends, he added.
“More broadly, I hope we continue to learn ever better ways to combat terrorism, because as long as there is human society, there will be the problem of the few against the many, the aberrant and twisted against the decent and tolerant civilized life.”
"To leave behind the era of Iraq and Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden and face this department towards the challenges and opportunities that will define the future for ... our successors as soldiers and citizens.”
Peace and prosperity will depend in the future on the pivotal stabilizing role of America’s military, Carter said. And so, he added, he hopes to see the nation invest in new capabilities in cyber, special operations forces, space, intelligence and more.
"And I hope to see us advance the numbers and capabilities of the alliances and partnerships that the US only, because of the values it represents, has. Our challengers and antagonists have none.”
Carter, as he has often done, again expressed strong views about the on-going discord over the federal budget.
“We can fulfill our strategic destiny as the single most important provider of security to the world without the ever-increasing defense budgets we once enjoyed,” he said. “But the turbulence surrounding governance in Washington is having serious effects.
“It injects inefficiencies into our programs and industry that we're striving to have deliver better buying power to the taxpayer for their dollars.
“It's unsafe, because it affects the readiness of the forces that would respond to contingencies.
“It's dispiriting to and unworthy of the patriots -- military and civilian -- who serve this government.
“Most seriously, it embarrasses us in front of friends and allies -- and also potential opponents.
“A great and strong nation needs a working government,” Carter said.
The uncertainty is purely the result of political gridlock, he added, and the service members and citizens of the nation deserve better.
Carter said he also hopes that the department continues its internal efforts to change the way it operates.
“All of this I hope for you, our amazing force represented by you here,” he said.
In emotional tones, Carter told the audience he has “complete confidence, that with President Obama, Secretary Hagel and this superb leadership, the department will meet its management challenges and grasp all the right strategic opportunities ahead for your America.