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SecDef Carter Predicts His Reforms Will Endure

Posted by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter greets a new recruit at Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) Chicago.

Defense Secretary Carter greets a new Navy recruit

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, ILL: As Russian cyber espionage heats up the presidential campaign, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said his Pentagon reforms will endure under the next president, whoever he or she may be.

“These things that we’re doing, we the leadership collectively discuss them, invent them, so everybody understands why we’re doing these things,” said Carter. “They have a sense and a logic to them…. The logic of these changes will ensure that they’re carried out in the future. The key is to get them started now and to get everybody understanding why they’re important.”

Carter was in Illinois to tour recruit-processing and training facilities as part of his Force of the Future initiative, which aims to overhaul the all-too-often rigid bureaucracy that manages military personnel. He’s also launched Better Buying Power, to streamline the dysfunctional acquisition system, and the Third Offset Strategy, to develop cutting-edge technologies over the next decade-plus.

BBP is the furthest along, but all three reform agendas are really just beginning to gain on institutional and cultural momentum. Carter’s deputy, Bob Work, told us bluntly that the immediate agenda for the Third Offset Strategy in particular was simply to set up options for the next administration.

“I’m going to do everything I can, in the time I’m here, to set the direction, so that the successive leadership of the Department and the country has things in the best order and headed in the best direction possible,” Carter told reporters after his remarks to sailors here. “I’ll work right up to the last day I’m Secretary of Defense.”

hillary clinton campaign 2016What day is that? The next president — Clinton or Trump — will be sworn in on January 20th, 2017, not quite six months from now. Defense Secretary Bob Gates stayed on despite a change in administrations (and parties) from Bush to Obama, but Gates’s stature is such that he’s more a living legend than a precedent. Hillary Clinton would probably want her own loyalist in the job, and Donald Trump is unlikely to warm to a longtime Obama insider like Ash Carter.

Donald Trump With regard to Force of the Future in particular, Carter said, “our leadership understands that our people are what make our force great. They understand that’s not a birthright. They understand that we need to keep thinking how to keep that edge.”

Even hot-button reforms such as opening combat jobs to women and allowing gay, lesbian, and transgender service members to serve openly will endure because they’re simply sensible, Carter argued. “I like to think that things that make sense would have made sense to anybody in my position,” he said. As he’d told the Navy trainers here earlier, “we need to look around our country and make sure that we’re tapping into every pool of talent we can, and that we’re retaining people on their merits.”

Our colleagues at US Naval Institute News report the Navy will name a ship after assassinated gay rights activist — and Navy veteran — Harvey Milk


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