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Carter’s Troop Talk Stresses Support for Soldiers

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said taking care of troops is the top Pentagon priority, but change is coming. He made his remarks during the DoD’s first worldwide troop talk, which was broadcast for soldiers at Fort Meade, Md.

“You are the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said before a local audience of about 100 service members, and a worldwide audience watching on the American Forces Network and Internet. “That is something we want to make sure my successor and my successor’s successor have.”

Carter also said that “we cannot pay you enough for what we ask you to do,” but DoD has limited resources. There is no discussion of cutting pay, Carter said, though the rate of pay increases is being discussed. Retirement benefits also could change, but not for current members. “We are not going to change the deal with you,” he said.

Some changes in personnel management could be coming. “We have a whole lot of ideas,” Carter said. “I am going to sift through them.” Defense and service officials have been talking about changes in pay, career progression and assignment policies, something Carter said could be modeled, in part, on practices in the private sector.

Asked about changes in assignment policies for women, Carter said he is considering widening opportunities. “What matters most is who is qualified,” he said. “I want to have the widest possible pool of people to consider.” He added that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley will be making recommendations on the topic by the end of the year.

One question focused on the fear of over-deploying troops if ground forces get smaller but commitments don’t subside. Carter acknowledged the potential for stressing the force, but said the answer has to be in finding ways of reducing the number of ground forces needed. He added that allies and adversaries should realize U.S. military might is not measured by the number of deployed forces, but by the power of the force that could be applied.