Despite recent concerns that China is attempting to expand its military influence in East Asia, the United States will continue to be the “pivotal military power” in the region, said Ashton B. Carter, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in his speech at the Institute of Politics yesterday.
“We are certainly not going anywhere,” Carter said. “They rolled out a stealth fighter and we’re going to have 2,443 stealth fighters. The idea that the pivotal role of the United States will erode or will be eroded isn’t so. It just isn’t going to happen.”
Carter said that the United States is not threatened by the recent growth of the Chinese armed forces.
“China’s military is increasing in size and sophistication and that’s absolutely fine, but everywhere we see anything that would erode our power or ability to play the pivotal role in the Pacific, we react,” Carter said.
He said that he did not believe a military confrontation between the two superpowers is inevitable or desirable. He added that the best way to avoid conflict is to have transparency and open channels of communication.
Despite competition with China and ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, Carter said that the Department of Defense is focused on cutting its budget just as every other government agency must.
He said that while national defense discretionary spending is not the primary driver of the deficit, he acknowledged that defense spending contributes to the deficit, at 20.3 percent of annual spending.
Carter said that the Department of Defense is currently examining its spending to assure that taxpayers’ money is being spent in the most efficient manner.
“With a budget war raging now in Washington, for us that means that we have an extra burden to prove to the taxpayer that we are spending the money in a way that is respectful to the taxpayer at a time of economic and fiscal distress,” Carter said. He added that the Department of Defense is focused on stretching its dollars in the must efficient way possible by focusing on “productivity growth.”
“We must deliver more without more—more capabilities without more dollars ... We must live within our means and still defend the country,” Carter said.
At the same time, Carter stressed the importance of investing in technologies like MRAP All Terrain Vehicles—which shield soldiers in Afghanistan from explosives—to protect American soldiers.
“My motto was, ‘It is better an MRAP without a soldier than a soldier without an MRAP,’” Carter said.
Given the recent debates about the national budget and last week’s fears about the federal government being shut down, Jordan E. Sessler ’13, the Student Chair of the IOP Forum Committee, said it was important for students to hear about what the federal government is doing to solve its fiscal problems.
“This is a time there is a lot going on in the economy and people deserve to know how these problems interact with what is going on in Washington,” Sessler said.
—Staff writer Monica M. Dodge can be reached at email@example.com.