Ash Carter, who was sworn in as the 25th secretary of defense Feb. 17, laid out his top priorities in a message to the Department of Defense workforce.
I am honored to become your secretary of defense. I am proud to lead men and women who devote their lives to the highest calling – the defense of our nation. And I am grateful to follow in the footsteps of Secretary Hagel, one of our nation’s most honorable and conscientious public servants.
We live in challenging times – times that demand leadership and focus. And starting today, I will be calling on each and every one of you to help carry out three top priorities.
Our first priority is helping the president make the best possible national security decisions for protecting our country – and then implementing those decisions with our department’s long-admired excellence.
We confront a turbulent and dangerous world: continuing turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, and the malignant and savage terrorism emanating from it; an ongoing conflict in Afghanistan; a reversion to archaic security thinking in parts of Europe; tensions in the Asia-Pacific; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and intensifying threats in cyberspace.
In addressing these challenges, I have pledged to provide the President my most candid strategic advice. I will count on your experience and expertise as I formulate that advice. I will also ensure the President receives candid professional military advice.
But as we tackle the many threats to our national security, we must never lose sight of our nation’s enduring strengths – or of the opportunities to make a brighter future and better world for our children. The United States remains the strongest and most resilient nation on earth. Because of you, we have the finest fighting force the world has ever known. We have friends and allies in every corner of the world, while our adversaries have few. We have long possessed the world’s most dynamic and innovative economy. And our values, principles, and leadership continue to inspire hope and progress around the world.
Safeguarding America’s security and global leadership will depend on another of my main priorities: ensuring the strength and health of you who make up the greatest fighting force the world has ever known – our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, civilians, and contractors all around the world.
I will do that by focusing on the well-being, safety, and dignity of each of you and your families. I will ensure your training and equipment are as superb as you are. And I pledge to make decisions about sending you into harm’s way with the greatest reflection and utmost care – because this is my highest responsibility as secretary of defense.
Honoring all these commitments also requires us to focus on building the force of the future, which is my third priority.
We must steer through the turmoil of sequestration, which imposes wasteful uncertainty and risk to our nation’s defense. We must balance all parts of our defense budget so that we continue to attract the best people – people like you; so that there are enough of you to defend our interests around the world; and so that you are always well-equipped and well-trained to execute your critical mission.
To win support from our fellow citizens for the resources we need, we must show that we can make better use of every taxpayer dollar. That means a leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practices.
It also means embracing the future – and embracing change.
We must be open to change in order to operate effectively in an increasingly dynamic world; to keep pace with advances in technology; and to attract new generations of talented and dedicated Americans to our calling.
I first arrived at the Pentagon more than three decades ago, and have had the privilege of serving 11 secretaries of defense in Democratic and Republican administrations. I took the oath of office this morning because I love our country and am devoted to you who defend it. And I am committed to our fundamental mission: the defense of our nation.
I look forward to leading and serving alongside you at this extraordinary moment in our nation’s history.
May God bless you and your families, and may God bless America.