- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressed the military’s top brass and troops on Thursday to announce his priorities, which included advising President Obama on how to combat the nation’s adversaries and resisting dangerous congressional budget cuts.

In a speech to more than 300 military personnel, Mr. Carter explained that Mr. Obama would be in need of “the best military support” as he makes tough decisions in the coming months. The new defense chief made the comments during an all-hands-on-deck meeting in the basement of the Pentagon two days after he was sworn into office. Mr. Carter is Mr. Obama’s fourth defense secretary and the second Pentagon chief to be tasked with destroying and defeating a violent extremist group known as the Islamic State.

“It’s a rough world out there,” he said. “There’s a lot going on.”

Mr. Carter briefly mentioned the barbaric acts taking place in the Middle East and “historical throwbacks in Europe” as his prime concerns. But as miserable as all that may seem, there are “tremendous, bright opportunities” on the horizon for the military and nation, Mr. Carter said.

“We are not only the finest fighting force in the world, but I think we’re the brightest beacon of hope in the world,” he said. “If you want evidence of that, take a look at all the friends. … Our antagonists have none or few, and that’s a reflection of the fact that our values and our conduct and our leadership are followed.”

That force needs to be protected from financial woes and resource challenges tied to a congressional budget plan known as sequestration, Mr. Carter said. In order to achieve that goal, the Pentagon will have to “convincingly make the case” to the American public for the need to spend more on the military, he said. Sequestration must not be a threat to the Defense Department, Mr. Carter said.

“That is unsafe. It’s dangerous. It’s wasteful and it’s unwise,” he said. “You’ll see me doing everything I can, everything a secretary of defense can do to try to bring our country together and get us out of the wilderness of sequester. We don’t belong there. That’s not what our people deserve. That’s not what this institution deserves.”

 

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