WASHINGTON (March 23, 2016) — The Army officers of tomorrow likely will face complex challenges in protecting the nation and staying one step ahead of adversaries, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday at the United States Military Academy.
Carter spoke to the corps of cadets at West Point, New York, telling about 4,400 men and women they soon will be responsible for defending the United States and helping to secure the world.
“It’s hard work, but it’s the most important and noble thing you can be doing with your lives,” Carter said.
Terrorism is among the five biggest evolving security challenges the United States is facing now, he said. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, the resolve of the United States is only strengthened to defeat terrorism, he added.
“We’re accelerating our campaign against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], most immediately in Iraq and Syria. That’s where the parent tumor is,” he said.
“Make no mistake — we will defeat ISIL,” Carter said. “I’m completely confident in it. We want to get it done as soon as we can, but we will destroy ISIL.”
The other global security challenges of concern are Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, a China that is acting aggressively, North Korea and Iran.
The United States does not have the luxury of choosing which threat it will have to address, Carter said. “We have to deal with them all — and you’re part of our plan to do so,” he told the cadets.
CURRENT GLOBAL CHALLENGES
The Asia-Pacific region is the “single most consequential region to America’s future,” the defense chief said, noting that half of the world’s population lives there and half of the world’s economic activity takes place there.
A rising China is fine in the region, he said, but China acting aggressively is not.
On the Korean Peninsula, North Korea poses a challenge to regional security, the secretary said, and American forces on the peninsula stand ready to “fight tonight.”
On the threat of Iran, the accord reached last year on nuclear weapons is a “good deal in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carter said. “We must still deter Iranian aggression, counter its malign influence in the region, and continue standing by and standing up for our friends and allies in the region,” he added.
LEADERS OF TOMORROW
The cadets at West Point likely will face a whole host of new challenges when they are in the force over the next 10 or 20 years, Carter said. In the audience today could be a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the person who will be the chief of staff of the Army, he noted, adding that Army officers are strategic thinkers who are able to re-evaluate situations and come up with new approaches and ideas.
“This should be a lesson for our enemies: never underestimate the ingenuity of the American Soldier,” he said. “We need to maintain that advantage forever.”
The nation’s defense rests in being able to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems, Carter told the cadets. “In any situation, you will encounter unexpected challenges that have to be solved at a moment’s notice,” he said.
The Army officers of tomorrow will be responsible for the lives of their soldiers and the execution of the mission, the secretary said. “This is the burden of command,” he added.
The constants to great leadership and military service, Carter said, include being a person of strong character. The mission of the military will always be the protection of the United States, he said, and the people will always be why the military is great.