Ashton Carter: The Pentagon Must Think Outside of Its Five-Sided Box

Ashton Carter: The Pentagon Must Think Outside of Its Five-Sided Box

"The U.S. military's excellence is not a birthright. It must be earned again and again in this changing and fiercely competitive world."

Teenager David Dworkin does not wear a uniform or earn a government paycheck, but earlier this year he made America’s military stronger and the country safer. In May, he participated in Hack the Pentagon, the first-ever bug bounty conducted by a federal department or agency. Its aim was to test for vulnerabilities in the Defense Department’s public websites by crowd-sourcing the effort to 1,400 registered white-hat hackers, with cash prizes for those who succeeded.

 

Within 13 minutes of the program’s start, the first bug was found. By the end of day one, 138 were discovered, including several by Dworkin. He performed the work between studies for his high school Advanced Placement exams. Incentive programs like this one are common in the private sector. Dworkin says he has found and reported vulnerabilities for Netflix and Uber, among other well-known companies, during similar bug bounties. Usually he does it for the chance for some money or a t-shirt. With Hack the Pentagon, he said he did it more out of a sense of duty and patriotism.

The pilot cost the Department of Defense a total of $150,000, no small sum, but hiring an outside firm to conduct a comparable security audit and vulnerability assessment would have cost a multiple of this amount. In addition, it freed the Defense Department’s talented in-house cyber specialists to spend more time fixing problems than finding them, and showed us how to streamline our efforts to defend our networks and quickly correct vulnerabilities. Perhaps most importantly, it underscored how solutions to even the Pentagon’s trickiest technology problems can come from anyone and anywhere among America’s tremendous human, corporate, and institutional resources. 

I am exceptionally proud of the innovative culture of the U.S. military, and as Secretary of Defense, I have had the benefit of innovations begun in the past. One of my primary commitments as Secretary of Defense has been to the U.S. military’s innovations for the future, to ensure we stay ahead of a rapidly changing world, keep the edge against determined competitors, employ the latest technology, and understand the needs and tastes of new generations and attract them to serving the country. As a result, I have been pushing the Pentagon to think outside of our five-sided box, to move more nimbly in the face of a real-time world and to rekindle the pioneering spirit that has been America’s trademark for more than two centuries.

The Imperative to Innovate in a Changing and Competitive World:

Our path to the future demands such transformation. It is not sufficient for the U.S. military simply to maintain its status as the finest fighting force the world has ever known. Treading water does not win races, no matter how much effort is exerted. And while the Cold War arms race was characterized by the inexorable but steady accumulation of strength – with the leader simply having more, bigger, or better weapons – today’s era of military competition is characterized by the additional variables of speed and agility, such that leading the race now frequently depends on who can out-innovate faster than everyone else, and even change the game. In the area of investment, it is no longer just a matter of what the Defense Department buys. Now more than ever, what also matters is how we buy things, how quickly we buy things, whom we buy them from, and how rapidly and creatively we can adapt them and use them in different and innovative ways – all this to stay ahead of future threats and future enemies technologically.

The word “innovation,” at its root, means to renew, which is the essence of the Defense Department’s initiatives to continue the U.S. military’s long tradition of gaining a competitive edge over its opponents by thinking and acting in new ways, fueled in important measure by the most inventive society the world has ever known.

This innovation is all the more necessary as the United States faces a security environment dramatically different than the last generation’s, and even the generation before that.  Indeed, the U.S. military is at this moment addressing five major, unique, and rapidly evolving challenges: countering the prospect of Russian aggression and coercion, especially in Europe; managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific, the single most consequential region for America’s future; strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile provocations; checking Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf, and protecting our friends and allies in the Middle East; and, accelerating the certain and lasting defeat of ISIL – destroying its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and everywhere else it metastasizes around the world, even as we help protect our homeland and our people.

The Defense Department does not have the luxury of choosing between these challenges.  And, in the face of an uncertain future, we must also continue to be ready for challenges we may not anticipate today. As the world changes and complexity increases, the Pentagon must change as well – how we invest in technology, how we fight, how we operate as an organization, and how we attract and nourish talent. The Hack the Pentagon pilot is one small example of the transformation we have already accomplished, and a preview of the Defense Department’s ambitious and highly achievable future direction.

Innovation in Technology:

The U.S. military’s excellence is not a birthright. It must be earned again and again in this changing and fiercely competitive world. Technology is, of course, one of the greatest agents of change. At the beginning of my own career in national security decades ago, most technology of consequence originated in America, much of it sponsored by the federal government,  particularly the Defense Department.

Today, the Pentagon is still a major sponsor, but much more technology is commercial, the technology base is increasingly global, and other countries have been racing to innovate on their own, often by using or improving the off-the-shelf products at their disposal. Indeed, we have seen in recent years that nations like Russia and China are trying to close the technology gap with the United States, and as high-end military technology has diffused, it has sometimes become available to countries like North Korea and Iran, and even non-state actors. Meanwhile, our own reliance on technological systems like satellites and the Internet has grown, creating vulnerabilities that our adversaries are eager to exploit.

To stay ahead of these threats, and maintain our lead over our competitors, the Defense Department is pushing the envelope with research and development in new technologies like data science, biotech, cyber defense, electronic warfare, robotics, undersea warfare, autonomy, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. In those areas and more, the Defense Department is making serious investments. The last budget the Pentagon proposed will invest $72 billion in research and development in the next year alone – more than double what Apple, Intel, and Google spent last year on R&D combined.

To ensure the Defense Department keeps leading on technological change, one of my core goals as Secretary has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between the Pentagon and America’s technology community.  We have a long partnership together of course leading to the creation of the Internet and GPS, and before that, satellite communication and the jet engine. But today, the challenges and opportunities our country faces demand that we strengthen this enduring partnership in mutually beneficial ways.

While over the decades our ties have endured through successes and strains, I discovered early in my tenure that I was the first defense secretary to visit Silicon Valley in almost 20 years. Since then, our department has redoubled our efforts to forge new connections with America’s many unrivaled hubs of innovation – not only in Silicon Valley, but also in places like Seattle, Boston, Austin, and many places in between.

Maintaining these partnerships and forging new ones will require sustained effort and openness on the part of the Defense Department. Since the department and the technology community each have different missions and somewhat different perspectives, we may disagree from time to time. But that cannot stop us. In fact, we should not only expect and tolerate disagreement, but welcome it, because it is vigorous debate and exchange that produces breakthrough ideas and real transformation.

Last year, I created our Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx – to help build bridges with startups and other commercial technology firms located in the country’s innovation ecosystems. So far, the Defense Department has opened offices in Silicon Valley and Boston, and an outpost in Austin, Texas, to help us more quickly adopt technologies that can aid our troops in accomplishing their missions. There are more to come in America’s many other innovation hubs.  DIUx has already conducted events in 9 states and interacted with companies in 31 states. And it has also solicited proposals for funding in such categories as micro-satellites and advanced analytics – leveraging the revolution in commercial space and machine learning to transform how the United States uses space-based tools, and advanced data processing, to provide critical situational awareness to forces around the world and add resilience to our national space architecture.

Of course, the importance of building these bridges cannot diminish how the Defense Department, particularly at our labs and engineering centers around the country, is innovating technologically by creating technologies from their own military and other scientists, by bringing in technology from without, and by repurposing technologies the Defense Department already has in our vast inventory. Navy labs are developing and prototyping undersea drones in multiple sizes and with diverse payloads – which is important, since undersea warfare is an area of American dominance, and since unmanned undersea vehicles can operate in shallow waters where manned submarines cannot. Our Army labs are working on missile defenses launched from an artillery gun, which can defeat incoming ballistic missiles at much lower cost-per-round than more expensive rocket interceptors. And Air Force labs are pioneering applications for neuromorphic computing, which incorporates hardware, software, and systems inspired by the working mechanisms of the human brain – which might overcome the limitations of current computing architectures and thereby extend our information superiority in air, space, and cyberspace.

Of course, America’s innovative defense industry is a key partner in all these efforts, because the Defense Department does not build anything in the Pentagon. Unlike the Soviet Union, which tried to have the government be its defense industry, the United States has long had success relying on the strengths of our civilian commercial economy.  Today, with more technological innovation occurring in the commercial sector, to continue this success, the Pentagon needs to be able to also identify and do business with companies that might not have been in our traditional defense orbit, and welcome them in.

Meanwhile, with the inspiration of the new Pentagon Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), the military is also changing and adapting how the Defense Department uses existing platforms and technologies already in our inventory – giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential opponents. I created SCO in 2012 when I was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and earlier this year, I lifted the veil on several SCO projects we are investing in, such as the arsenal plane, a new anti-ship capability for the SM-6 missile, and swarming maritime and airborne drones on the sea and in the air.

A prominent tenet of SCO’s work is to spearhead creative and unexpected ways to use our existing missiles and advanced munitions across varied domains. One example is SCO’s project to develop a cross-domain capability for the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). By integrating an existing seeker onto the front of the ATACMS missile, SCO is enabling it to hit moving targets both at sea and on land. With this capability, what was previously an Army missile system for attacking ground targets like tanks will be able to attack ships, projecting power from coastal locations up to 300 kilometers into the maritime domain.

The characteristics of speed and agility in the defense realm, which efforts like DIUx and SCO share, have long been a focus of mine. When I served as Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, it was imperative that the Pentagon create a “fast lane” to quickly get our troops in harm’s way the tools they needed to accomplish their mission – from mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, to inexpensive aerostat balloons equipped with cameras to help monitor the security of our forward operating bases. Any delay in producing or deploying these technologies would come at great cost, because the longer our troops had to wait for them, the greater the risk was to their lives. So the Defense Department started a Warfighter Senior Integration Group, which was designed to bring together and bring to bear the full weight of department’s senior leadership on addressing our most critical operational needs, and we developed new approaches to rapidly field cutting-edge, much-needed capabilities.

Ultimately, these efforts evolved into what the Pentagon now calls Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUONs), for tools the military needs right away to fight current wars like our current counter-ISIL and counter-terrorism campaigns, and Joint Emergent Operational Needs (JEONs), for tools we need as soon as possible for a conflict that could start tomorrow, for example in Europe or the Korean Peninsula. This system is far from perfect, but it has injected some badly needed agility into the Pentagon’s notoriously slow bureaucracy. DIUx and SCO build upon this legacy with their focus on quickly meeting the near-term needs of not only today’s warfighters, but also tomorrow’s.

Going forward, all these new long-term investments must be cultivated and allowed to bear fruit.  Uprooting them to protect established, more traditional defense spending will always be tempting in times of tight budgeting. By avoiding that temptation, the payoff will be new weapons systems and warfighting capabilities at our disposal in the coming years and decades which will more effectively deter future conflict.

Operational Innovation:

 

The notion of thinking differently does not solely apply to how the military develops new technologies and weapons systems. It also applies to how and when they are used. For that reason, technological innovation and operational innovation go hand-in-glove.

Because our military spent the last 15 years confronting the necessity of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the United States did so to some extent at the expense of maintaining our advantage in full-spectrum warfighting. Meanwhile the world and our potential opponents were not similarly preoccupied. Other nations have honed their conventional warfighting skills, and in some cases have devised new methods aimed at diminishing our advantages and pre-empting our responses, not only by developing high-tech weapons, but also by crafting operational approaches such as hybrid warfare techniques.

For these reasons, the Defense Department is reinvigorating training across the military branches to return to full-spectrum readiness, and re-thinking how we operate to find new advantages against potential adversaries. In the Asia-Pacific, for example, the United States has been modernizing our alliances, strengthening new partnerships, and helping to build a principled and inclusive regional security network to promote conflict prevention, promote stability, and ultimately refute the idea that China’s rise preordains either coercion or conflict. And, in Europe, we have been working with our NATO allies to adapt and write a new playbook for our strong and balanced strategic approach to Russia, one that takes the lessons of history and leverages our alliance’s strengths in new, networked ways in order to counter a new form of challenge from the east with features like cyber and hybrid warfare, integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence, and adjust our posture and presence to promote greater agility and responsiveness. 

More concretely, the Defense Department is revising our actual plans for potential operations themselves. We have fundamentally revised core contingency plans to account for changes in potential adversaries’ capabilities and also to apply innovation to our operational approaches, and incorporate counters to emerging threats such as cyberattacks, anti-satellite weapons, and anti-access, area denial systems. And at the same time that we innovate to counter changing conventional threats, we continue to sustain America’s safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent by recapitalizing our nuclear triad, command and control, and infrastructure.

Overall, our plans are being built to give our chain of command’s most senior decision-makers a greater variety of choices in the face of a greater variety of challenges and potential battlefields whether at sea, in the air, on land, in space, and in cyberspace. Our planners are taking into greater account how to prevail if they have to execute their plan at the same time another contingency is taking place lest they fall into the trap of having only a single plan that presumes their contingency is the only one to face in the world at that time. And, because today’s conflicts are less likely than ever to be confined to neat regional or functional boundaries, our plans now prioritize transregional and transfunctional integration. In sum, the Pentagon has revised all our war plans to ensure we have the agility and ability to win the fights we are in, the wars that could happen today, and the wars that could happen in the future.

Organizational Innovation:

Innovation in technology and operations are necessary, but insufficient, because at the pace today’s world demands, the Defense Department can only succeed  by being an immensely flexible institution that nurtures innovation in all its forms. This requires more innovative organizational structures and practices. As one of the largest organizations in the world, the Defense Department can be bureaucratic, slow-moving, and more comfortable defaulting to the status quo and perceiving that to be “low risk.” Unfortunately, in today’s security environment, the Pentagon cannot afford to be that way. Ensuring primacy in this climate requires the Pentagon to be a place where thinking differently is welcomed and fostered, not where good ideas die just because they happen to be new.

Over the last few years, I have created several entities to help signify and drive innovation throughout the department, such as SCO, DIUx, the Defense Digital Service, and most recently the Defense Innovation Board (DIB). The DIB directly advises me – and will do the same for future defense secretaries. It brings the culture, mindsets, and practices of the technology community to the U.S. military, and consists of some of the country’s top leaders, thinkers, and doers from the private sector and academia.

This is one of several innovation-minded advisory boards that report to the defense secretary, each with a distinctive mission, membership, and expertise. The Defense Science Board is an assembly of scientists and technologists with deep knowledge of weapons systems and defense research and development. The Defense Policy Board consists of members with exceptional foreign and defense policymaking experience. The Defense Business Board is comprised of experts who understand and advise the Pentagon on its vast business enterprise. The Defense Innovation Board members, however, were chosen largely for their record of innovation outside our department, and their ability to suggest new approaches that worked in their leadership experience and might be applicable to us.

Despite their busy lives, the members of the Innovation Board, including its chair Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, have embraced their role in helping shape America’s military future. They are doing their homework, as well, having already spent time with airmen in Nevada, sailors aboard ships, soldiers and special operators on the East Coast, and troops deployed to the Middle East. At the outset, I gave them the very specific task of identifying innovative private-sector practices that might be of use to us in the Defense Department, in the same way we implemented Hack the Pentagon, the first federal government bug bounty.

Not everything in the private sector will make sense for us, of course. The military is not a company; it is dedicated to the profession of arms. While the Defense Department will not always be able to operate the way the corporate world does, we can still look in the mirror and around the country for new ideas, lessons, and ways to operate more effectively.

The DIB’s early efforts have already borne fruit, yielding several preliminary recommendations in its first public meeting in October 2016. The Pentagon will increase focus on recruiting talented military and civilian computer scientists and software engineers through targeted initiatives, with the goal of making computer science a core competency of the Defense Department. We will invest more broadly in machine learning, using targeted challenges and prize competitions through a ‘virtual center of excellence’ that will engage with researchers inside and outside the department.

And we will also create a Defense Department Chief Innovation Officer, who will act as a senior advisor to the defense secretary and serve as a spearhead for innovation activities. Many different organizations have recently embraced the position of chief innovation officer, and also started to regularly run these kind of innovation tournaments and competitions – including tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Google – and it is time the Defense Department did as well, to help incentivize our people to come up with innovative ideas and approaches, and be recognized for them.

I am confident the logic and value of these efforts will be self-evident to future Pentagon leadership, but they also have the momentum and institutional foundation to keep going and thrive under their own steam. They must be able to continue leading the way in disrupting, challenging, and inspiring the entire Defense Department to change for the better.

Innovation in People and Talent Management:

The bedrock upon which the Defense Department is built is its military personnel. This fact has not changed in more than two centuries, and will be the same two centuries from now. Our service members are our most enduring advantage. What differs from generation to generation are the upbringings, demographics, and career motivations of the people from which we recruit and select our all-volunteer force. And while we can acquire the best technology, and employ the soundest operational and organizational concepts, we are nothing without our people. Therefore, perhaps the most critical area of all for the Pentagon to innovate for the future is in the area of military and civilian talent management.

As our country and young citizens change, so must our methods for attracting and retaining the smartest, hardest working, and most talented among them. For example, to reach today’s Instagram generation, the Defense Department is taking steps like employing social media tools to match personnel with the most rewarding jobs and units, much like LinkedIn does for the private sector. This initiative is just one example of the steps the Defense Department has taken over the last two years to build what I call the Force of the Future. In total, these initiatives span the career of a uniformed service member, from recruiting men and women to join, to caring for, retaining, and developing them, and then to helping successfully transition those who want to move on.

To attract new talent, the Pentagon is expanding our recruiting pool, focusing purely on a person’s willingness and ability to serve our country and contribute to our mission, and giving everyone full and equal opportunity to do so.  In the 21st century, and in an all-volunteer force, that requires us to be able to draw talent from the broadest possible pool of qualified Americans. 

So that we always reach out to the most talented young men and women America has to offer, the Defense Department is telling our story in more places, more ways, and to a broader range of audiences across the country. To accomplish this, we are working to expand geographic, demographic, and generational access in military recruiting by changing how we highlight our mission. This will be done through expanded advertising and other more targeted – and creative – efforts.

The Pentagon is also reinvigorating our Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016 and furnishes 40 percent of our officers. The intent is to ensure our ability to continue to attract high-quality cadets and midshipmen to join the ROTC ranks on university campuses across the country, make being a ROTC instructor more attractive for our best military officers, and better assess and recognize high-performing ROTC detachments to ensure continued effectiveness.

The imperative to expand our talent base also drove my decision in December 2015 to open up all combat positions to women without exception. We cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half of the country’s talents and skills, rather we have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our high standards. That is mission critical. Any woman who qualifies can now contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They can drive tanks, they can fire mortars, they can lead infantry soldiers into combat. There are no longer positions open only to men: women can serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers. Even more important, our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that our talented women have to offer.

The same rationale of opening all positions to all Americans who can meet our high standards also led me to lift also led me to lift the Defense Department’s ban on transgender service members. We do not want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission and, along the way, innovate in the execution of their duties.

It is not enough that we recruit the best. We also have to work to keep the best in this competitive job market. To retain and develop our existing men and women in uniform, the Defense Department is developing additional opportunities and more flexibility, ranging from how we promote our officers, to building and expanding “on-ramps” and “off-ramps” to allow technical talent to flow a bit more freely in and out of the military. These initiatives will help us to keep people at key decision points in their career, when they have shown their worth and we have made substantial investments in them. As a result of these reforms, some of the Department’s many innovative military personnel and civilians will now be able to widen their horizons with tours in industry, higher education, or elsewhere in our country’s larger innovative ecosystem.

The Defense Department is also making some common-sense improvements to military talent management. I have given the armed services and Joint Chiefs more flexibility in how they administer the long-standing “up-or-out” system of promotion, proposing changes to the law where that is needed. While this system has been very successful, the additional flexibility we will provide the services will continue to ensure that promotion on the way to senior leadership better rewards and encourages a wider range of experience, perspective, and training.

Because retention is so important and given the department’s obligations to our men and women in uniform, building the Force of the Future requires us to take care of today’s force. Because the military is largely a married force, and surveys show that family considerations are key factors in retention. The Defense Department is addressing these concerns to retain our talent, while recognizing that serving in uniform will never be the same as working for a private company. For example, the Defense Department expanded maternity leave and extended hours for on-base child care centers, and we are seeking congressional authorization to expand paternity leave.  These common sense steps to take care of our people also increase the possibility they will continue serving.

At the same time, the Defense Department must also meet our commitment to help care for our military’s wounded, ill, and injured.  It includes our enduring pledge to support the families of the fallen, whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of us and our country. And it also includes ensuring the dignity of our people, which is why our military leaders and I have prioritized the prevention and elimination of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.

Of course, the Force of the Future will not all serve in uniform. 700,000 much ignored and even maligned but talented and dedicated Defense Department civilians currently serve across the country and around the world, where they fix aircraft, build ships, operate testing ranges, and much more. To ensure our future civilian workforce continues to be as effective, motivated, and talented as the one today, the Defense Department is taking steps such as changing the lengthy hiring process to allow the hiring of talented young graduates directly from college campuses, just as the employers we are competing against do. 

Despite the department’s retention efforts, I know that some service members will choose to leave. As Secretary of Defense, I have to tell you that is not always easy for me, because I hate to see our great people go. But at the same time, there is a silver lining: when service members have a successful transition to a good job, or start their own business, or work in public service, or volunteer in their community, they show potential members of the Force of the Future that the military can be more than a good place to be; it is also a good place to be from. Those examples – and there are many – have tremendous value as we recruit their replacements and replenish our own innovative workforce.  I am old enough to remember a time when it was different, and I am so proud today that our employers and our citizens recognize what spectacular contributors our veterans are.

Going forward, there will still be much more work to do, but for the first time in a long time, the parts of the Pentagon charged with managing our department’s talent, health, welfare, and readiness are poised to do more than simply react to issues that crop up in Congress or the press.  Instead, they now have a concrete and proactive action plan to guide their efforts. Based on the support for this agenda in our military services, I am confident its implementation will continue moving forward, and ensure that America’s Force of the Future is as great as the force of today.

The Future:

Innovation in technology, operations, organization, and personnel will strengthen our department, and ensure my successor and my successor’s successor as secretary of defense lead a force as fine as the one we have today. But it bears remembering that the Defense Department innovates from an already enviable, and indeed unparalleled, position of strength.

The United States possesses the world’s finest military, of course – built by our people, investments, hard-earned operational experience, dedication to the mission, and public support we receive from the American people. And there is much more than that. Our economy is growing. Our colleges and universities continue as beacons of discovery, invention, and thought.  Our selfless commitment not only to our own country’s defense, but to global security and to upholding common values, has rewarded us with an unrivaled network of friends and allies. And our melting pot of cultures, ideas, and backgrounds has instilled in us an industrious and innovative culture that is envied around the globe.

I am confident in the changes the Pentagon is making, in the vision we have set for the future, and most importantly, in the young women and men in uniform, and our civilians, who will carry our country forward. We are witnessing the early chapters in a history book that is still being written by this generation.

This history book will written by the junior officers and Defense Department just embarking on their careers, and by new generations even younger and still unborn. Chapters will be written by some civilians fresh out of graduate school who will decide to spend a year outside of the department at Google or somewhere else, and work with an expert in data science or machine learning. Pages will be written by the software engineers, bioscientists, and teenage hackers like David Dworkin who are getting to know our mission by working with one of our DIUx outposts or through a bug bounty like Hack the Pentagon, and might then choose to do a tour of duty in the Defense Digital Service or working at one of our DoD labs. And yet other chapters will be authored by enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who will devise new operational concepts for overcoming potential adversaries using advanced technologies that may not even exist yet, or defeating a terrorist group unknown to us today.

Together, they will fill the pages as America reinvents and changes anew how it will prevent and deter, and when necessary fight and win, wars in the future.  Our job is to give them the right kind of Pentagon to help them succeed: one that is more agile and innovative than ever before. As long as we do, I am confident that these young Americans will ensure – like the generations before them – that our military remains the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

Ashton B. Carter is the 25th U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Image: Aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the South China Sea. Flickr/U.S. Department of Defense