Ashton Carter made his first visit to Camp Pendleton as the U.S. Secretary of Defense Thursday, discussing concerns about the nation’s defense budget and future threats presented by technology.
Carter spent his visit talking with Marines and watching a simulated, amphibious raid at Red Beach, which demonstrated the First Marine Expeditionary Force's capability to respond quickly as a global force.
The Marines told him the age of the amphibious assault vehicles is of concern and they would like funding to replace the vehicles that were designed in the 1970s. The corps would prefer a vehicle that can come in from the ocean to avoid detection.
Carter said the Marines are moving away from focusing on counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and are looking at more deployments across the globe.
“Now the country is going to be asking them, and I am asking them, to prepare for and prepare to execute a wider range of strategic mission, what is called ‘full spectrum,’” he said. “And that means changing and adapting their training, continuing to do intensive training, but across a wider range of missions and doing different sorts of deployments.”
Those deployments would be around the world in areas with threats. Two recently growing threats, Carter said, are the Islamic State and Russia.
The Defense Secretary expressed some concern about the budget for the Defense Department, and he talked about the importance of building a fighting force for the future, which included investing in new technology to address cyber threats.
Carter is headed next to the Silicon Valley.
“I’ll be visiting a unit that I created called the ‘Defense Innovation Unit Experimental,’ whose very purpose is in this specific area of new technology to connect the Department of Defense to the innovative community of California and around the world,” he said.
Carter also fielded questions directly from Marines. He said he is working on new policies to protect military members at recruiting centers following the shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“It's pretty exciting,” said Camp Pendleton Capt. Joseph Berg. “It's very nice to have important figures like that come down to the ground to see what my Marines down here are doing out here. It means a lot to us that he would take the time out of his day to come speak to us.”