RICHARD FONTAINE: Well, good morning and thank you to Ben for that session on defense reform. I’m Richard Fontaine, the president here at CNAS. And Ben’s session was excellent transition to our next speaker, who is a leader who has made it his mission over the years to, in his words, get the Pentagon to think outside the five-sided box. Ash Carter has spent his tenure as the 25th secretary of defense challenging the Department to increase its openness to new technology, to new ideas, and to people that it requires in today’s complex security environment.
The Force of the Future, dozens of defense innovation initiatives, the Third Offset Strategy, and a significant success with the Better Buying Power series of reforms are just the recent examples of Secretary Carter’s long career working tirelessly to promote policies and innovations that assure American global leadership.
Secretary Carter, as you all undoubtedly know has spent more than three decades leveraging his knowledge of science and technology, global strategy, and a dedication to the men and women of DOD to make our nation a safer place. He served as deputy secretary of defense, as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy and he’s held up his own career that’s bridged academia, technology, and national security as a model of the enormous potential of that kind of collaboration.
Mr. Secretary, we are thankful that you’re here to share your thoughts on 21st century national security. Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. (Applause.)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON CARTER: Good morning, everyone. It’s great to see you all here and so many long-time friends and colleagues I saw on the list to be here. I appreciate that. Richard, thank you very much for that kind introduction and for inviting me to speak here today. And Michele Flournoy is also here. Michele, thank you for your years of dedicated service, for your years, I dare say 30 years of them, friendship with me, go back a long ways, and for your leadership of this great institution, CNAS.
For almost a decade now, CNAS has been an engine for the ideas and the talent that have shaped American foreign and defense policy, and our department in particular. In meeting after meeting, on issue after issue, I work with members of the vast network CNAS alumni, including my excellent Deputy Bob Work. And I want to thank everyone at CNAS for all you’re doing to think and write about new ways to advance America’s security and make a better world.
Now, I know today’s conference is focused on the upcoming Washington transition, and I want to be clear up front that I’m not going to talk about that subject. (Laughter.) And the reason for that is that the United States has a longstanding practice, tradition, and principle that our department, our military, and our security leaders stand apart from the electoral process. So I’m extremely careful not to comment on the election, except to simply say that our department will run a smooth and orderly transition, as it has always done.
Instead, I want to talk with you this morning about the broader strategic transition occurring in the world today, and what the Defense Department is doing to meet its challenges and to seize its opportunities. Today’s security environment is dramatically different from that of the last generation, and even the generation before that. In this new era, we face no fewer than five immediate evolving challenges.
First, countering the prospect of Russian aggression and coercion, especially in Europe. Second, managing historic change in the vital Asia-Pacific region, where China is rising, which is fine, but behaving aggressively, which is not. Strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations and threat to our allies. Checking Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf. And we must and we are combating terrorism, including accelerating the defeat of ISIL.
Last week’s tragic shooting in Orlando underscores the urgency of that last one. It reminds us that ISIL not only tyrannizes the population where it arose in Syria and Iraq, but it also wants to spread its evil ideology and to plot or inspire attacks on Americans, including here at home. And Orlando further steels our resolve to carry out all aspects of our coalition military campaign plan. First, destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, which is necessary, not sufficient because second, we need to combat ISIL’s metastases worldwide wherever it appears. And third help protect the homeland and our people.
Now, we don’t have the luxury of choosing among these five different challenges. We must and will address them all, across the spectrum of conflict. In addition, we must grow more flexible and agile because as much information as the Defense Department has, and as smart as CNAS experts and studies are history has shown us we never perfectly predict the strategic future. So we have to be ready to contend with a complex and uncertain future where new and currently unforeseen challenges may arise.
In the face of those five challenges and that uncertain future, the Defense Department is taking steps to remain the most powerful military on earth. It’s a competitive world out there, and organizations that succeed in a competitive world do so because they’re open to change. And accordingly, I’ve challenged the Pentagon, as has been said, to think outside our five-sided box. So we’re investing – changing in how we invest and how we innovate, how we plan and how we fight, how we recruit and retain personnel, how our department is structured and functions, and how we work with our partners and allies, all for the better.
Because we’re doing so and thanks to this nation’s enduring strengths, I’m confident that the United States will remain – maintain our unrivaled military strength for decades and remain the world’s foremost leader, partner, and underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe. But that strength does require new investments on our part, new posture and presence in some regions, and also new and enhanced capabilities.
The directions set in our 2017 budget ensure the Defense Department maintains our dominance in each domain, not only sea, air, and land, but also in cyber, electronic warfare, space, nuclear deterrence, and more.
In our Navy, we’re growing not just the number of ships but also their lethality, with new weapons and high-end ships. And we’re extending our commanding lead in undersea warfare – with new investments in undersea drones, for example, and more submarines with the versatile Virginia Payload Module that triples their strike capacity from 12 Tomahawks to 40.
We’re investing to continue our air superiority and global reach through innovative capabilities like the B-21 long-range strike bomber, swarming micro-drones, and the arsenal plane, as well as advanced munitions of all sorts, among other third offset investments. We’re also prioritizing training and readiness for our ground forces and reinvigorating the readiness and modernization of our fighter aircraft fleet. We’re reversing decades of underinvestment in our nuclear deterrent, a bedrock necessity, in accordance with the president’s Nuclear Review and Guidance and the modernization plans built into our budget. And we’re also doing more to help build our cyber mission force, develop next-generation electronic jammers, and prepare for the possibility of a conflict that extends into space.
The Defense Department maintains its world leading capabilities because it has made incomparable investments in our military edge over the course of decades. As a result, it will take decades or more for anyone to build the kind of comprehensive military capability the United States possesses. This strength is not simply about current and cumulative dollar figures. Our military edge has been strengthened and honed in hard-earned operational experience over the past 15 years. No other military possesses this kind of skill and agility backed by this much experience.
Now, the responsibility I have to all my successors is to ensure that the military and the Defense Department they inherit is just as strong and just as excellent, if not more so, than the one I have the privilege of leading today. To do so, we’re also seizing other opportunities for the future. That’s why we’re making increased investments in science and technology, to stay ahead of future threats. Overall, our budget invests nearly $72 billion in R&D for next year. For a little context, that’s more than double what Apple, Intel, and Google spent on R&D last year combined.
As part of that, we’re reaching out to America’s wonderful innovative ecosystems, which are another great and unrivaled source of national strength, to build bridges to, partner with, and inspire those innovators who want to make a difference in our world. And this is one way they can do it. We’ve embarked on initiatives like our start-up in Silicon Valley, the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, and there’re more to come. We’ve also created the new Defense Digital Service, which brings in coders from companies like Google, Palantir, and Shopify for a tour of duty with us, to help solve technological challenges across the department. I’ve established the Defense Innovation Board chaired by Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt to advise the secretary of defense on how we can continue to change to be more competitive.
Meanwhile, to prepare ourselves for the future, we’re also updating our core contingency plans with innovative operational concepts. We’ve revised every one of our war plans. I can’t tell you exactly how they’ve changed, if any audience can appreciate why, I think the CNAS audience can, but rest assured, they’re up-to-date. It’s also why we’ve taken a series of bold steps in personnel and talent management to build what I call the Force of the Future, and we’re going to be doing even more.
As we all know, generations change, technologies change, labor markets change. That’s why one of my responsibilities is to make sure that amidst all this change, the Defense Department continues to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented men and women America has to offer, so that tomorrow’s force is as fine as today’s. Later this week, I’ll visit members of today’s force, including wounded warrior athletes at the Warrior Games. I’ll also meet some of the Force of the Future, ROTC cadets at their capstone summer course at Fort Knox, sailors at basic training at Great Lakes, and new recruits at one of our military entry stations in Chicago.
And last but not least, seizing opportunities for the future is why we’re also pushing for needed reforms across the defense enterprise because we owe it to America’s taxpayers to spend our defense dollars as wisely and responsibly as possible. So we’re improving acquisition, further reducing overhead, and proposing new changes to the Goldwater-Nichols Act that defines much of our institutional organization. More on one of those specific reforms later.
All of these efforts, these new capabilities and investments, new innovations and plans, people and reforms, will ensure that the United States military continues to defend our nation, underwrite global security, and uphold the principled order that has benefited our nation and so many.
Thankfully, we’ve never had to do that alone. That’s because there’s another critical ingredient to U.S. strength and leadership, and that’s what I want to emphasize today, namely our unrivaled relationships with other countries, a long-time network of allies and partners in every corner of the world. That network is an important strategic asset. Our allies around the world have stood with us and fought with us time and again, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against ISIL. And we’re just as committed to them. As history has shown, we have fought with our friends and allies to defend the principles we share in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and in Europe.
Today, therefore, America’s unrivaled military strength and that network of friends and allies, also unrivaled, have formed the bedrock of national and global security and have for decades. It reflects an important fact. The United States has all the friends around the world, and our antagonists have few or none. That’s no accident. We have the friends because our network has long been a principled one, based on the standards and ideals the United States and these other peoples have collectively promoted and upheld for decades, like resolving disputes peacefully, ensuring countries can make their own security and economic choices free from coercion and intimidation, and preserving the freedom of over flight and navigation guaranteed by international law.
It’s also inclusive and voluntary, since any nation and any military – no matter its capability, budget, or experience – can contribute. And we have all the friends because our men and women, the finest fighting force the world has ever known, embody those principles. Our people are not only competent. They’re respectful of other people and shared principles. Defense leaders everywhere I go tell me they like working with our military. That’s because our service members don’t intimidate, coerce, or exclude. They work with our allies and partners to ensure a better world. That reputation makes me proud.
But as the world changes, and as more partners want to contribute, we’re taking the opportunity to adapt and expand our security relationships. as I like to say, to network them. And in the remainder of my remarks I want to focus in on how the Defense Department is networking with our various allies and partners around the world, across the Asia-Pacific, in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Europe.
Networking, of course, is helping solve challenges in many aspects of life today. Networks of all kinds – physical, virtual, and social – have, with link after link and strand upon strand, improved how we work and govern, how we sell and shop, how we live and learn. And as the world’s businesses, governments, and other institutions become more interconnected, it’s in tune with the times that the world’s militaries would do the same.
Networking security – whether in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa, or Europe – enables militaries to take coordinated action to deter conflict, protect their people, and meet transnational challenges like terrorism, to ensure the security of and equal access to the global and regional commons, including vital waterways, and to provide humanitarian assistance during refugee crises and respond to disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.
Now, networking security does differ from region to region. And that makes sense, because each has its own unique history, geography, politics, and security needs. That’s why, in the Asia-Pacific, we’re weaving together bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral relationships into a larger, region-wide network, all in a part of the world that’s never had a region-wide formal security structure.
In the Middle East and North Africa, we’re leading coalitions and networks to address key security challenges like ISIL and other terrorist groups, and to counter Iran’s malign influence. And in Europe, we’re leveraging an existing and strong multilateral network, and adapting it do new things in new ways, to stand up to Russian aggression from the east, and to address challenges on Europe’s southern flank, like the refugees crisis and the flow of foreign fighters. In a moment, I’ll address these three regions in greater detail. But first it’s also important to be mindful that some aspects of our approach cut across all three.
In each region, the basic principle’s the same: we’re bringing together likeminded partners to enhance cooperation and build and strengthen connections. And in each region, network needs a networker, a nation and a military to enable it. So even as we respond to the five very different challenges we face today, again, from China and Russia, North Korea and Iran, and terrorism, especially ISIL, the Defense Department is also leading to forge these networks.
All the changes to the Department – at the Department will ensure we continue to have the dominant people, platforms, payloads, and plans to provide the unique leadership, capabilities, and guidance to catalyze greater security networking across these regions. Indeed, in region after region, our people and Department are building and strengthening connections with countries and militaries so we can all plan together, exercise and train together, and as necessary, fight together more effectively and efficiently than ever before.
Those connections take many forms. For one, we’re sharing information, including intelligence, in new ways, to allow our militaries to communicate better and in real time so that we can work together seamlessly and quickly. We’ve done this, for example, with France in the wake of the Paris attacks last November, and in the trilateral arrangement we’ve developed between Japan, the Republic Korea, and the United States, to name another.
Also, more and more, we’re leveraging persistent rotational forces that allow us to project presence without the requirements of permanent footprints. This has in turn helped us grow the number and complexity of combined exercises, like the recently completed BALTOPS exercise with NATO, Finland, and Sweden, the just concluded Malabar exercise with the United States, India, and Japan, and the soon to commence 27-nation RIMPAC maritime exercise in the Asia-Pacific.
And, as some of those exercises demonstrate, we’re also improving our operability, to ensure that our militaries can work with and off of the same platforms. For example, the new F-35 stealth jet fighter will be flown not only by American airmen and naval aviators, but also by Israeli, Italian, and Korean pilots, just to name a few. In fact, my Israeli counterpart traveled to the United States this week for a rollout of the first two F-35Is.
Even with these commonalities, our approach to networking is different, depending upon the region, as I noted. Let me first start with the Asia-Pacific. Earlier this month, I was at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where we’re continuing to develop the Asia-Pacific security network. Security in the Asia-Pacific, as I said, has never been managed by a region-wide, formal structure comparable to NATO in Europe. Instead it’s been the United States and the region’s strong but largely separate bilateral relationships that have helped ensure security and stability for more than 70 years. And that stability has enabled countries throughout the region to make incredible economic and human progress.
Think about it. Economic miracle after economic miracle has occurred there. First Japan, then Taiwan, then South Korea, and Southeast Asia, rose and prospered. Now, today, China and India are doing the same. We want that positive trend to continue because it’s been beneficial for the region and its people, as well as to the U.S. economy and our interests.
Thanks to the investments and planning we’re undertaking as part of President Obama’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, United States will have the people, platforms, and posture to remain the most powerful military and main underwriter of security in the region for decades. The U.S. role is in service of a principled and inclusive network, a network in tune not only with the times but also with the region’s history. The network is principled because it stands for and in defense of the principles our countries have collectively promoted and upheld for decades, such as freedom of navigation and over flight. And it’s inclusive because the network’s aimed at no nation and excludes no one.
To begin with, our historic bilateral relationships are modernizing and expanding. While we’d need to be here all day to go through the breadth and depth of this work, you can see some of the results in, for example, the new U.S.-Japan alliance’s Defense Guidelines, in our work with our Australian allies both on the challenges of the Asia-Pacific and in our joint efforts to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria. In the constant evolution of the deterrent posture on the Korean Peninsula with our ally the Republic of Korea, and in the way we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our ally the Philippines, including with our landmark Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. And you can see our relationships growing in number and strength.
In the closer than ever U.S.-India military relationship, thanks to America’s strategic and technological handshakes with India, with America’s rebalance shaking hands with India’s Act East policy and the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative grasping the hand of Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India program. All this includes more frequent exercises and more mutual defense co-development and co-production with India.
You see it in the dramatically strengthened U.S. to Vietnam partnership, which now extends to lethal weapons sales and in the U.S.-Singapore relationship, which has helped build cooperation, provide security, and respond to crises across Southeast Asia.
These are just a few of our strong partnerships. The list could go on and on. These growing relationships demonstrate that nations across the Asia-Pacific are committed to doing more to promote continued regional security and prosperity. And they show that the United States is using its unique capabilities, experience, and influence to stand with them and network them to meet common challenges and ensure continued regional security and stability.
For example, we’re implementing our Maritime Security Initiative, which represents an initial $425 million, the American commitment to establish a regional maritime security network in Southeast Asia. More than simply providing money or hardware, this initiative helps the United States to enable the Philippines, Vietnam, India – Indonesia – excuse me – Malaysia, and Thailand to connect and work with each other and us, so they can all see more, share more, and do more to ensure maritime security throughout the vital waters of Southeast Asia.
This initiative, which has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, catalyzes a principled and inclusive security network in the vital field of maritime security. In addition to all this, the Asia-Pacific security network is coming together in three additional ways.
First, some pioneering trilateral mechanisms are bringing together likeminded allies and partners to maximize individual contributions and connect nations that previously worked together only bilaterally. For example, the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral partnership helps us coordinate responses to North Korean nuclear and missile provocations. And our three nations will conduct a trilateral ballistic missile warning exercise later this month.
And through joint activities like the Malabar Exercise, the U.S.-Japan-India trilateral relationship is starting to provide real, practical security cooperation that spans the entire region from the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.
And second and beyond relationships involving the United States, many countries within the Asia-Pacific are coming together on their own in bilateral and trilateral mechanisms. For example, India is increasing its training with Vietnam’s military and coast guard on their common platforms. And the Japan-Australia-India trilateral meeting last year was a welcome development and addition to the region’s security network.
And third, and even more broadly, all of our nations are creating a networked, multilateral regional security architecture, from one end of the region to the other, through the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus. Later this year, I’ll host an informal defense ministers’ dialogue in Hawaii, with all of the ASEAN countries, to discuss common interests, and find new ways to ensure regional security.
That’s all to the good, but it’s important to remember, as I said earlier, that this Asia-Pacific security network is not aimed at any particular country. The network’s not closed and excludes no one. Although we have disagreements with China, especially over its destabilizing behavior in the South China Sea, we’re committed to working with them and to persuading them to avoid self-isolation. That’s one reason why we’ll continue to pursue a stronger bilateral military-to-military relationship with our colleagues in China, including later this month at RIMPAC, which China will participate in again this summer.
Let me now turn to the Middle East and North Africa, where, despite much turmoil, turbulence, and transition, our networking is guided by our crystal-clear and lasting national interests. They remain our North Star in a confused region. There we’re focused on what I’ve called the two Is: Iran and ISIL.
On the first I, Iran, the nuclear accord is a good deal for preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but in other respects our concerns with Iran persist. And because of its reckless and destabilizing behavior in that part of the world the Defense Department remains full speed ahead in our investments, our planning, and our posture to ensure we deter Iranian aggression, counter Iran’s malign influence, and uphold our ironclad commitments to our regional friends and allies, especially Israel.
The other challenge in the Middle East is, of course, ISIL. ISIL threatens our interests, those of our friends and allies in the region and around the world, and our homeland. That’s why our military campaign, which I outlined at Fort Campbell in January, has these three necessary elements. First, to destroy the ISIL parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, as I said. Two, to combat the emerging metastases of ISIL worldwide, and three, all the while, to help protect the homeland.
On that last objective, every day, our homeland security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies are aggressively and skillfully pursuing a whole-of-government effort to protect the homeland. And the Defense Department does everything it can to help. While we work to do so, the U.S. military has also been taking action abroad with a 30-member military coalition to destroy ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and show that there will not be an Islamic State based upon this ideology. Beyond these two countries, we’re also building a trans-regional network of anti-terror nodes to counter ISIL and other terror groups, wherever they metastasize, in the Middle East, in North Africa, in South Asia, or elsewhere.
Before I describe that network, let me walk you through the coalition military campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. Our strategic approach is clear. The way to ensure that the defeat of ISIL is lasting is to enable capable, motivated local forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria who can seize, hold, and govern territory retaken from ISIL. That’s frustrating at times, we all know, but there’s no substitute if we’re going to ensure that after ISIL is defeated, it stays defeated. We’ve been accelerating our campaign dramatically since last fall, pressuring ISIL from all sides, across all domains, and simultaneously. And the campaign is producing results on the ground, creating and seizing new opportunities, and continuing to gather momentum.
As we meet here today, the U.S. military is supporting local, capable forces in three major operations in Iraq and Syria, along with a number of other activities. In Western Iraq, we’re assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their operations to clear Fallujah under the command of Prime Minister Abadi. Fallujah is one of the last remaining urban centers under ISIL’s control in Anbar province, and its retaking will follow the results of the Iraqi Security Forces in Ramadi, Hit, and Rutbah.
In Northern Iraq, we’re supporting the Iraqi Security Forces in a major operation to envelop and collapse ISIL’s control over Mosul, while also equipping and funding Kurdish Peshmerga who’ll converge on Mosul from the North. And in Northern Syria, we and our coalition partners are enabling the Syrian Arab Coalition forces to expel ISIL from Manbij City, after its successful envelopment. And we’re working with local forces fighting ISIL along the Mara line. These operations are particularly critical for helping to seal the Turkish border and cut off the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and to eliminate external plotting being conducted from Manbij.
Meanwhile, we’ve also been pressuring ISIL’s war sustaining abilities by systematically eliminating their leadership cadre and their financial architecture. In addition to taking out their ministers of war and finance and capturing one of the principals of ISIL’s chemical warfare enterprise, we’ve killed some 20 of ISIL’s external operators who were actively plotting to attack our friends and allies and America’s own men and women in uniform. And we’re continuing attacks on ISIL’s economic infrastructure, from oil wells and trucks to cash storage sites.
The counter-ISIL campaign is an example of what we can do when working with local and global partners. Our global military coalition of 30 nations has trained some 23,000 Iraqi Security Forces, and provided local partners with more than eight full brigade sets of equipment, including ammunition, small, medium, and heavy weapons, and counter IED equipment. For our part, the Defense Department is bringing to bear in the fight against ISIL every element of our military power: special operators, conventional forces, air assets, intelligence and surveillance, cyber and space capabilities, logistics and sustainment. And that’s generating results. But Orlando is a reminder that all nations must do more to defeat ISIL. The sooner we deliver it a lasting defeat, the safer we’ll make our homelands and our people.
That’s why, in addition to accelerating the campaign with additional U.S. capabilities, I’ve renewed our outreach to coalition members. And over the last five months, I’ve convened my counterparts several times, in Paris, Brussels, Riyadh, and then at Stuttgart, to brief them on the coalition military campaign plan, but above all to urge them to contribute more, and in more meaningful ways. And next month, I’ll, once again, be hosting defense ministers from every member of the counter-ISIL military coalition here in Washington for the second overall defense ministerial, and to plan and resource our next steps in our comprehensive campaign in Iraq and Syria.
We’ve been addressing ISIL’s metastases as well by degrading it in Afghanistan, targeting its leadership and infrastructure in Libya, and in other actions worldwide. We’ll keep adapting, with our growing network and our strengthening network of coalition partners because the enemy frequently takes the form of a network itself, and it must be fought in that way.
An important step I’m taking with Chairman Dunford is to develop a trans-regional networked approach to counterterrorism generally. This approach leverages infrastructure we’ve already established in Afghanistan, the Levant, East Africa, and Southern Europe. These so-called regional nodes, from Moron, Spain to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, will provide forward presence to respond to a range of contingencies, terrorist and other kinds, enabling unilateral crisis response, counter-terror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.
Those forward nodes will also allow us to enable and network partners to respond to a range of challenges. They’ll help us pre-position equipment for ourselves and our partners. And they’ll provide important opportunities to innovate, to develop new command-and-control structure, test new ways to manage our forces, prototype new capabilities, and try out new operational concepts networked and otherwise. To take full advantage of these nodes and the network they comprise, we have to change how the Defense Department works, and is structured, to ensure better trans-regional and trans-functional integration and advice.
Right now, the responsibility for integration among the combatant commanders and combatant commands reposed in the secretary of defense is inadequately supported by the formal authority of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That’s why, in some of our proposed improvements to the 30-year-old Goldwater-Nichols Act, we want to clarify the role and authority of the chairman to, among other things, help the secretary of defense synchronize resources globally for daily operations around the world, enhance the Department’s flexibility and ability to move forces rapidly across the seams between our combatant commands. And I want to commend Chairman Dunford, who’s been leading these critically important efforts.
Now, the third and last region I’ll discuss today is Europe, where I was last week for the NATO Defense Ministerial. And of course, NATO has for 67 years been the quintessential example of nations working together and networking together to respond to security challenges. But today, the transatlantic community faces new challenges very different from the Cold War. In the east, where Russia’s acting aggressively and advancing new forms of hybrid warfare, and on the southern flank, with refugees and foreign fighters, and further abroad, in Afghanistan and with ISIL and other terrorist groups. And in the face of these challenges, the Defense Department is helping NATO adapt and network so it can meet and overcome this era’s challenges to the interests and values of this family of nations.
Now, we haven’t had to prioritize deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank for 25 years. While we all wish it were otherwise, now we do. Despite the progress that we’ve made together since the end of the Cold War, Russia has in recent years appeared intent, with its violation of Ukrainian, Georgian, Moldovan territorial integrity, with its unprofessional behavior in the air, in space, and in cyberspace, as well as with its nuclear saber-rattling, on eroding the principled international order that has served the United States, our allies and partners, the international community and Russia itself for so long.
In response, as I detailed a year ago in Berlin, the United States is taking a strong and balanced approach to address Russia. We’re strengthening our capabilities, our posture, our investments, our plans and our allies and partners, all while still keeping the door open to working with Russia where our interests align. And we will continue to make clear that Russia’s aggressive actions only serve to further its isolation, and further unite the NATO Alliance.
Throughout the 20th century, although – excuse me – although the 20th NATO playbook helped counter the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and ultimately helped win the Cold War, it’s not a match, perfect match for the 21st century challenges the transatlantic community faces. And that’s why NATO’s adapting and writing a new playbook. That playbook takes the lessons of history and leverages our alliance’s strengths in new, networked ways to counter new challenges, like cyber and hybrid warfare, to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence, and to adjust our posture and presence so we can be more agile and responsive.
Of course, as the alliance defense ministers discussed last week when I was in Brussels – and those conversations will continue by the way next month when I accompany President Obama to the NATO Summit in Warsaw – we all need to do more to deter and defend against Russian aggression and to meet the challenges to NATO’s south and further abroad.
The United States and the Defense Department are already doing more than our fair share. We’ve increased funding for our European Reassurance Initiative, more than quadrupling what we requested last year, to bolster our bilateral military engagement in Europe and to strengthen our deterrence posture in the face of Russia’s aggression. Among other things, this funding will allow us to rotate an Armored Brigade Combat Team on a heel-to-toe basis into Northern Europe, as well as pre-position equipment and war fighting gear for another Armored Brigade Combat Team ready to be used by American troops flown to Europe. This is, of course, in addition to the two brigades we already maintain there, and the new combat aviation brigade that’s also been sent to Europe. And we’re encouraging our fellow allies to do more as well.
We’ve seen some progress from NATO allies on spending. Since the 2 percent pledge made at the 2014 Wales Summit, the vast majority of allies have stopped making cuts, and most allies have also committed to at least small increases in defense budgets, but there’s still more to do. And that will certainly be discussed in Warsaw as well.
Meanwhile, we’re also working within the NATO alliance to develop networked responses to Russian aggression. For example, the United States has helped develop NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which can deploy allied forces on 48-hours notice from multiple locations in Europe to any crisis on NATO territory. This is a real innovation, one that uses commitments from many members of the alliance to provide a networked response to crises. And the United States is providing the unique enabling capabilities – airlift and many others – that will make the networked VJTF work.
Additionally, and most recently, NATO has also agreed to a persistent enhanced forward Presence of four NATO battalions on its eastern flank, one each in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In Brussels last week, it became clear that the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom will make key contributions and we won’t be the only ones, though the final details will be determined next month in Warsaw. This forward presence, too, will be networked as the rotational forces will be fielded from many NATO countries. And the resulting combined presence will be an additional deterrent to Russian aggression.
Given the many challenges to European security, NATO and its member countries are also networking with non-NATO partners and even non-European partners to ensure the security of the transatlantic community and the world. For example, in Afghanistan, NATO’s resolute support mission continues to help strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Recently the president authorized us to use American forces to strategic effect in support of Afghan forces during this fighting season. And we’re very pleased that other NATO nations have committed not only to provide forces to that mission beyond this year, but also to provide funding to sustain the Afghan forces through 2020, as the United States has also done.
Meanwhile, NATO is also providing support to partners like Ukraine and Georgia, helping build the capability of these former Soviet states and strengthen their capabilities and defense institutions, something that’s particularly important in the face of Russian aggression.
To help address the migrant and refugee crisis, NATO is complementing the EU’s work in the Mediterranean Sea, with its own NATO activity in the Aegean Sea. And the United States is sending the USNS Grapple to support that. And NATO will soon play a more direct role as an alliance in the counter-ISIL campaign. First by contributing AWACS and conducting training and defense capacity building for Iraq – Iraqi forces inside Iraq, rather than in Jordan. Hopefully that will be the start of more to come.
In conclusion, all of this networking demonstrates that whether in Europe, around the Middle East, or across the Asia-Pacific, these inclusive, principled security networks will continue to contribute to national, regional, and global security and help uphold the principled international order. And because of the investments, reforms, and changes we’re making at the Defense Department, the United States will not only remain the most powerful military and underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe, we’ll also continue to be the leader and enabler of these networks for decades to come.
As a result, we will do more than meet the five challenges of this new strategic era. We will ensure that this time of historic change is also one of historic progress. To ensure it is, we may further change how we invest, how we operate, how we fight, and how we network, but we’ll never change why we’re networking with friends and allies and what we’re networking and willing to fight for. For our security and interests, for the principles that have benefited so many for so long.
That’s what many of you in this room have spent your careers working for. I thank you for that dedication, but we’re not finished yet. We still have work to do. And as we continue to pursue that mission, I look forward to collaborating, and networking, with each of you at CNAS. Thank you very much. (Applause.)