WASHINGTON --- As the Defense Department prepares to transition to new leadership, it remains ready to confront security challenges anywhere in the world, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Pentagon reporters today during a joint news conference with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford.
The department’s Senior Leadership Council, which includes the leaders of the combatant commands and the services, met today “to discuss how we’re ensuring continued preparedness and vigilance in the weeks and months ahead,” Carter said.
Senior Leaders Share Perspectives
The secretary said the meeting included briefings on regional issues across the department’s mission set: countering Russian aggression and North Korean provocation, managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific region, fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, countering Iran’s malign influence and protecting the homeland. Many senior leaders contributed to what was “a productive, robust discussion,” Carter said.
“The meeting was another reminder that while the world doesn’t rest for the transition here in Washington, neither does the Department of Defense,” he said.
Americans and their friends around the world “can have confidence, and our adversaries should take heed, that the U.S. military is full speed ahead in the coming weeks and months,” the secretary said.
Carter said that like all the Americans serving around the world, “each of our leaders is dedicated to defending this country.”
“The finest fighting force the world has ever known” has many strengths, the secretary said, such as its technology, material, operational experience and more. But another strength is its leaders, he added.
“America’s military deserves only the finest leaders, and we’ve got them. … Each of them, I know, will continue to make an important and lasting contribution to the future of our military,” he said.
‘The Best Decision I’ve Made’
Carter repeated for reporters a remark he made during a farewell tribute yesterday: that the best decision he made as secretary was to recommend Dunford as chairman.
“Joe, you’ve been a great partner, helping me lead the department and our joint force, in advising and supporting the president, in accelerating the counter-ISIL campaign, reforming our department to better confront transregional and transfunctional challenges, and much, much more, ” he said. “And I have every confidence you will continue to defend our country and protect our values, with excellence, in years to come.”
‘Getting the Story Right’
Carter also told reporters he has valued the work of the Pentagon press pool.
“A free and vibrant press is essential to our democracy and the protection of it. … I appreciate your consistent efforts to tell the world about our men and women in uniform [and] our dedicated civilians and what they’re doing every day to defend our country and make a better world,” he said. “I respect your commitment to getting the job done -- getting the story right.”