The Future of Defense with Ash Carter


The future state cast at the intersection of Technology National Security and politics. I'm your host take Clark. The president of the United States doesn't really run the government. The government is run by the people who run the departments and agencies the president's cabinet and we've been lucky on the future state podcast to have many cabinet members from the secretary of State Secretary of Energy the National Security Advisor the head of E._p._a.. And and today we have perhaps the most important cabinet position all the one that's known in Washington as the SECDEF SECDEF Secretary of Defense runs the largest organization in the U._S. U._S.. Government millions of people in uniform and millions of civilians seven hundred billion dollars a year in spending nuclear weapons fleets of aircraft fleets of ships secdef is the more czar of the United States and the twenty fifth secdef was Ash Carter Ash Carter earned his bachelor's in physics and in Medieval History Summa cum laude and of course that Yale and Phi Beta Kappa of course he got his doctorate in physics from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes. Scholar is also an instructor at Oxford and a post doc at Rockefeller University and at M._I._T.. He did physics research at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the fermilab outside of Chicago today Ash Carter is the head of the Belfer Center here for International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Ash Carter is here to talk about his time as the secretary of defense. We're going talk about that and the future of defense as well as Ash Carter's great new book inside the five sided box lessons from a lifetime of leadership in the Pentagon the five sided boxes you we know is the Pentagon the headquarters of the fence department and this book inside the five sidewalks demystify is the Pentagon and actually lays bare the inner workings of the Department of Defense <music> so let's talk about the future of defense so Ash Carter Welcome to future state good to be here. Thanks you had the job I always wanted to have uh still time so the secretary of defense whether great job I do I do I do just because I missed the department. I was there in and out of there for thirty seven year right so it's the place I know best and and love most but you know you when you're in a job like that and you've had jobs like this. You know you can't do it forever so I knew there's going to be changed administration. I would be out <hes> what was important to me. Was that I I knew I couldn't finish everything I started but I could start everything I wanted to and that I man I did manage to start everything. I thought the nation needed. It's department depends to start in that sense how satisfied but I don't know if most people who haven't worked in government understand. This is a twenty four hour a day job you. You know people joke about that three A._M.. Phone call but how often did that happen every night. We'll one of the ugliest ways that that transpires is something called Operation Noble Eagle which you have both as deputy members deputy and then I was secretary and the secretary and the deputy share the responsibility for noble Ligo which is the shooting down of civilian airliners if they're headed for example for for the Capitol Dome <hes> that is like a true crisis in today's world crises usually develop over a few hours anyway but that is something that develops over a few minutes that you do wake up in the middle of the night for and and do your general point about the pressure. I didn't feel it until the day after Gimenez took over for me. The day I walked out and Jim Walked in something came off my show. It's almost physical. It's almost physically your you'll know feel that the expression is you feel the weight off your shoulders but you literally do yes in your in your back you know begins to become normal again and maybe get the sleep <hes>. It's is an incredible sacrifice and how much we pay the Secretary of Defense Your pay about one hundred ninety five thousand dollars a year and you're running the biggest corporation in the unites <hes> Yes for for a tiny fraction of what any other corporate <hes> C._E._o.. Always getting a you're running the largest one but nobody's in it for that reason no you're not but on the other hand you know I I look at Singapore where they pay their cabinet members a little man <hes> and every year your in the Pentagon given what you could do on the outside aside. You're giving up money giving up your life. You're giving up money. It's my prime earning years. I've been in public service and that means that I'll have less to give away philanthropic plenty to live on. I'm ready I but I will have less to give away philanthropic LII and less to give to my children than people who spent more of their lives doing other things but there's nothing better to done such a sacrifice and what you get in return yeah you get a lot of job satisfaction. Let's be clear <hes> but you also get attacked by whatever the other party is <hes> I worked for both Democrats and Republicans and and if I was working for Republican Democrats attacked me in the fight was working Democrat Republicans. At the time you get attacked by the press <hes> and no one ever really says thank you very much well. You'd be surprised maybe it's the secretary of defense and the custom now of thanking people for service in leaks in the sector events I to work for presence of both administrations and so I've seen that swing back and forth the one thing about defense and since a lot of your experience was in the White House that may be different in just inherently on because that's the president's President's House and the Department of Defense is the military's house and the the the nation's defense <hes> it's less partisan and <hes> less harsh <hes> now that it doesn't mean that I didn't have to deal with <hes> members of Congress who mature John McCain Major Life Israel on a few got along with John McCain very I know everyone didn't but I always got along with John. He used is to invite me to his on his congressional delegations every year for fifteen years before I became under secretary so I had traveled with him and he knew me and <hes> evidently had some regard for what I was doing least thought it was a straight shooter I believe and I always knew that prickly as he could be and so that he his his anchor was in the America that I know I'm still in love but he did make it difficult on with this. I seen him say things to my subordinates. When I was secretary including chairman of the Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman of the joint chiefs that were so over the top critical yeah so you say those millions of people working in the Pentagon <hes> and their secretaries of the Army Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs and and you kind of wonder well you know what's the role of the secretary <hes> in in in setting direction and setting policy and I think you mentioned your mattis replaced you but nobody replaced him nine yet? No and I you know Jim's not replaceable in many ways because he he at least initially commended the ear and maybe the respect to president trump and I worry that the next guy isn't going to be listened to it all so we've been a longtime though without secretary of Defense and what what difference does it make whether we have a strong secretary or not the place will go one. It won't get out of control because there's so much order indiscipline in the nature of the institution and it's got a very deep keel in two point eight million professionals who work there military and civilian would it can't do Dick is move into the future without a leader because nobody can make change but the guy at the top and we need to keep keep changing because we're the best now because we've been pretty good at adaptation over the course of our history but it's a competitive world you know our competitors China Russia Iran North Korea terrorists these are fiercely competitive people who are entirely focused on us and it's a competitive world and we need to compete back and that means continuing to challenge ourselves technologically in terms of how we deal with people and manage people only the guy at the top can and do that. That's where the absence of confirmed secretary of Defense who enjoys some modem of trust from the president will be felt and that's what you did so well because you understood the technology side as well as the policy side <hes> and you talked about <hes> this is called the future state podcast. You talked about shoot your commands and you set up shops <hes> in Silicon Valley in Austin Texas. Tell us about that well when I started at you're right. I'm a physicist in fact the day President Obama nominated me. I got a call from Harold Brown. Who Jimmy Carter Secretary define remember Harold and Harold Harold said Ash every twenty years we get a good secretary of defense and what he was thinking was three scientists himself forty years before Bill Perry twenty years before as a mathematician me that was the way Harold Lloyd <hes> but when I started back thirty seven years ago and my first job when Caspar Weinberger for Secretary of defense all technology that mattered came out of America and most of that came out of defense and so we could grow our own and that would be sufficient <hes> all the electronics all the the Internet Alan? I mean the chip the Internet all that stuff came from us and you know first computer was army project. Yes <hes> for for calculating artillery shells would drop actually turns out be complicated problem <hes> and now it's a different world. It's a world in which a lot of technology comes out of the commercial and global sector. So how do you remain the best military power such world you have to be the most connected to it and be able to suck out of it not out of you. Oh just of your own tech base but suck out of the commercial global technology base the best new stuff and incorporated in your military systems. That's why I put outposts hosts in Silicon Valley Boston Austin I would have done more if I were still there and why put outposts of them in the Pentagon argued example with the defense digital service so these are are. I mean Dick Really people that don't look like you and me in suits and ties <hes> these were people that I would recruit out in these tech companies with the orange hair and nose rings and the whole deal and they are very suspicious of the government is post Snowden and I'd say give me just a year or come in and do one project and I got a promise for I'm not GonNa make you be like me. You know a guy at a suit a little. Oh flag lapel flag lapel <hes> but I promise you this that when you leave whenever that is this'll be the proudest you'll ever be of anything you've ever done. I promise you that an exit at interviews they'd always tell me they were and there are a lot of funny things that happen so these guys would be in their hoodies and they're they're aviator glasses up on their foreheads and everything walking around the Pentagon with you know they're very button down folks. We have there and one one day the men who is what they call mayor the Pentagon but the guy who <hes> get your walls painted so everybody the famous Dohuk Donnybrook was originally that young and Mike Rhodes took place. Mike comes in to me one morning and says Sir the Defense Digital Service which is what this group is called has put all their furniture out in the hallway. What do you want me to and I such as just leave him alone? Just take it away. They wanted an open space. You know so you're at the Pentagon's like like World War Two. They're these big leather chairs with brass tacks in them and big meeting. I remember when I worked there. You could do something called midnight requisitioning which maybe if you stayed around midnight you could go get yourself a nice leather somewhere way you know there were ashtrays on every table when I started out there and you'd throw open the windows in the springtime now let the springtime area not anymore no not anymore but you know the old saw where always ready to fight the last war and and I <hes> despite what you did to cause people to think about the future and and in technology and that's a big boat to turn around and I look at the navy for example with all these big aircraft carriers that just seemed to me to be targets <hes> L. I ask we're spending huge amounts of money to defend these aircraft carriers so that they can do what you know have forty eight air little F. Eighteen airplanes that can drop bombs and it just seemed to me that some of the services are still fighting the last war well yeah you do install all the base of equipment that lasts for thirty forty years so give you another example come back to the carrier rebuilding the Joint Strike Fighter now and I'm for that and I worked really hard to make that less. It was a mess when I started out as acquisitions are <hes> <hes> and it will have thirty forty five year lifetime. I doubt they'll be a follow on man tactical. You think you're the last human piloted aircraft yes technical tactical aircraft. Yes <hes> now you ask what the aircraft F carrier in a high end China Russia. Maybe Iran you're absolutely right. It's going to be increasingly difficult and has this has been true for some years to just been sure the survivability let alone the effectiveness of aircraft carrier begins those kind of enemies anywhere near their shores so fair point. I still think there will be a role however for some aircraft carriers when it comes to the Afghanistan's the series the Iraq's so if you partition things in to high end and low end they'll still be a low end role. Now you're right about fighting the last were in another sense yeah. That's been true on the other hand I would say if I if I name the biggies today for me China Russia Iran North Korea terrorism and I say well all of those are pretty big headache and I don't skinny down the list and try to simplify things. I've got these five headaches and that was my approach <hes>. I think they're each going to change. They'll be artificial intelligence. They'll be more cyber stuff. There may be bio <hes> terrorism though so these things will change but I'll bet you those same categories will be around for those same places will be problematic <hes> for awhile at Bob Gates it's my wonderful predecessor in great mentor and Friend of Mine Great Secretary of Defense and a great director Central Intelligence and Deputy National Security Advisor to <hes> Bob used to as before he became secretary defense as a former D._C._i.. I get applause with a line that went like this. <hes> we've never once predicted where we fought now. This is something you could say in the nineteen nineties and then he'd talk about Grenada and and so I remember Grenada and I do too <hes> and so they should show at right <hes> and so that's a great line however there's one thing that is not accurate about although Bob didn't mean it this way which is it's could suggest to people that are two presence in Europe or in South Korea because word in breakout but those are wars. We prepared for they didn't happen. That's not not a failure story. That's a success story. We knew where they were going to happen. Then we went there and prevented it yeah and so that's the big story of the American military of the last seven years and that is overwhelmingly a triumph of prediction and and prevention. It's not the war it's peace the peace in Japan Peace in Europe. You'd ever get credit for things that didn't happen. I I remember being part nearly nineteen nineties of the so-called nunn-lugar program fact I ran that program and that was a program. It was intended to to win the Soviet Union disintegrated to make sure the nuclear arsenal of the first ever nuclear state to fall apart didn't also fall apart pretty important mission carried out successfully not just because the United States participated in but above all because the Soviet former Soviet custodians did but it was successful and if you tell people that now it sounds like you're giving history lesson yeah but on the other hand there were twenty thousand nuclear weapons they could. Of ended up anywhere yeah so you talked about the future wars involving artificial intelligence and cyber so let's talk about this <hes>. I think a lot of people have a notion that <hes> we're going to turn over control of weapons to Algorithms Algorithms and algorithms are going to make decisions about who to attack. We're talking about cooperation with Silicon Valley and yet <hes> there was this incident at Google. <hes> were <hes> they were involved. Google was going to be involved. I don't know if they were in an artificial intelligence. They were they were and <hes> and some Google employee said we don't want to be involved. <hes> with the Pentagon and I think they were afraid of being part of an artificial intelligence program Graham that we'd go off on its own <hes> you know and and figure out what the target was and kill it <hes> we're not really developing that are we know and and I offered to talk to two Google employees. We concluded on balanced that probably will go to wait and do that. Another time. They were mistaken in my judgment and I think man their management was mistaken to change what they were doing. As a consequence that first of all that was not all google employees or a lot of Google in blazers some Google employees and that's fine. They're entitled to their point of view however I don't agree with your point of view and here's how I would reason with them. I would say to them first of all and this needs to be said good on you your thinking morally that is perfectly appropriate. I want to associate myself with you in that regard and by the way you should think that way about everything that Google does that would be normal well okay and then second I would say as far as your government is concerned in the battlefield. I want you to know that we take our values to the battlefield. I tell you that as the former secretary trey defense by the way Dick you may know this or may not but in twenty twelve when I was deputy secretary of Defense I issued what is still the extent guidance to the Department of Defense on so-called autonomous is weapons which says they will not exist says the must be human not in the loop involved in decision making. I only make that correction because other in the loop is not really technically possible at suggests a person in a chip in a circuit. Did you know that that can literally be right involved in decision making <hes> because that is morally necessary. It is operationally totally practical number three. I would say the <hes> on the contrary very. Are you comfortable working for the P._L._A.. Because you do Chinese People's Liberation Army because you don't know when you work in China which your company does whether because they don't tell you who died and the last thing I'd say to them is do you really take for granted. Everything that's around you. You have a company you drive. You drove to work today on a road that somebody made that's public project. You have employees who come in who can read and write. That's a public project. You're defended if I may say so by the department Iran and that seems like a pretty necessary thing. The government isn't some extraneous factor Dr it is how we do things that must be done collectively and if you don't like the way it's being done or distrust Wade's being done getting the game. How are we ever going to do the right thing on a I if people like you you don't get involved in it? I became involved in the government because I was a physicist and at that time star wars nuclear weapons were going on and I didn't always agree with what the government was doing but I felt like I had a responsibility ons ability to participate so that's the argument I would make to them. I share that view and I got involved in the government. <hes> straight out of college Undergrad went to work at the Pentagon S. four years of my life I think in some ways <hes> but those this where the years in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War and I was Vietnam war protesters and people didn't understand why are you going to work in the Pentagon us. The enemy has no. It's not the enemy that's us. Yes and the only way you prevent bad things from happening is by being involved. Yes you're so right. I I had the same attitude that I still have today and it's what I tell young people including Google irs. I say you get in if you if you want it to turn out right get in the game. There's no it's the only government we got. You can't go down the street and shopping another store and Donald trump will forever be president so these days I particularly get the question you made to from young people all the time and and I tell them yes no particular president will be here <hes> forever <hes> but this is your country. There's no alternative and you're not gonNA get your way all the time <hes> but go ahead and give it a shot and I get so frustrated with people who my model of the clueless is the wealthy businessmen who drives his lexus around simultaneously complaining about paint his taxes and the potholes now exactly when I swore <hes> the oath for the first time in the Pentagon Richard Nixon was the president <hes> and need. I say what I thought of Richard Nixon at the time I think the people should still go in <hes> because you can do good at any level in the government <hes> Roy Math Buckley Apropos Richard Nixon nurture Nixon's after my time but <HES> <hes> before my time rather but we met Buckley said he he was being asked by the F._B._i.. The question you've heard a million times asked about colleagues that they've asked you which is <hes>. It's the last question in a long security questionnaire. <hes> is there anything about Mr so and so <hes> that might embarrass the president and Buckley said about this colleague if his and Richard Nixon being president at the time he said in his best pseudo British accent <hes>. I should think the reverse is more likely. You're so we have this policy. Would you put in place <hes> on a I but I'm not sure other countries will yeah <hes> and so we have these fictionalised scenarios. I'm sure you're red. Ghost Fleet in there's great book <hes> where there's a hyper war a war that takes place really fast <hes> with hypersonic weapons with Cyber Weapons <hes> and with artificial intelligence making decisions <hes> if not on our side at least on the other aside <hes> how much of that is science fiction and how much of that is the next door I think the the speed and the automatic AC- of the weapons Israel <hes> but I think the opportunity for human responsibility and leadership is there <hes> and we'll continue to be they're not in the sense of as I said being a chip in the circuit but we've got to be the best that which means we have to have thought through the best field the best stuff the stuff that will dominate that is a creation of human thought and strategic wisdom and I think if we have that and we have good technology technology the best technology which I think we is within our Ken to have we'll win. Whatever form it takes there still will be a sense of victory? <hes> this will be a human war. One for human purpose in there is going to be human winter and human loser in the winner is GonNa be us and even when we talk about cyber wars cyber wars not going to take place in a vacuum. It's not GonNa Take Place just in cyberspace. It'll be part of an overall war. <hes> and I know oh you've thought so much instill now at Harvard Kennedy School at the Belfer Center thinking so much about cyber war but when you we talked about this earlier when you turn to the Cyber Command and said do something and go after Isis <hes> for me you were disappointed with the results I was is another story. I told in the book <hes> it was a managerial issue <hes> for me and <hes> making us us the best at cyber warfare is is to me a necessity and he's one of those areas where only the secretary of defense can lead that future and yes. I thought we had more. They're inside calm than we proved to have. When it was time to go after Isis now think about isis the these are barbarians? These are people who are crucifying people who are enslaving women so if you're there every time when the gloves are off it should be then that should be there and so I said you know just go get them and then we didn't get much <hes> out of it and that was to me me a sign that we weren't close yet and that wasn't US limiting ourselves there. Were some things like you'll appreciate this. There's always a trade off cyber between there's oh forever been in counter commanding handing control attack between listening to someone and taking away their communication so that's their <hes> for sure the problem with terrorism yeah yeah yeah and so it's you've been there you know that perfectly well still all all this was a situation where all that balance was in favour blackeyed these guys after other plotted against our people <hes> from places like rock and we didn't have anything so all that's crying over spilled milk now. It's it's but the point is a making of saying that in the book was to point up the managerial issues associated with cyber <hes> it's not enough to simply organiz around it and have a military command cybercrime lived at the margins of what is really the big dog of expertise which is the national security agency also managed by the Secretary of defense but done <hes> separately and I think I I figured that since they were they live next door to one another and had the same director appointed by us that there would be more diffusion of between Cyber Command between cyber come in and an annexation particularly from N._S._A.. <hes> to cyber combat it was difficult because the ETA said people are by nature listeners and not warriors <hes> and you can have a lot of warriors over there who may be really excellent and what they do know a lot about the trade craft of were but if they don't do anything about information technology they're going to be much useful used for that either so it was disappointing to me. We need to get better one of the things I hear about Cyber Command which I disagree with but I hear it that Wanna get your reaction. <hes> I hear a lot of people saying I pay taxes US and when I'm when I'm attacked by the Russian military or the P. L._A.. The Chinese military I expect the Pentagon defend me. So why do I have to spend all his money. Defending my company's cybersecurity security against the Russians the Chinese why isn't Cyber Command defending <hes> couple while you're right to disagree with that a couple of things wrong with it the first is that if you have laid to yourself open to foreign enemies you've also laid yourself open to everyone else and so technologically you are describing a situation in which you have not protected your Intellectual Property Operti the your customers data and that's a bigger problem than with her for nationalist is doing it so I wouldn't make that can fashion if I were C._E._O.. On a board <hes> second <hes> <hes> it's not the case the department it's not since it's not pure war. It's not purely a Defense Department responsibility and here the ugly reality which you know full well <hes> comes in. In which is homeland security is inherently an interagency responsibility which makes it a goat screw as the expression goes in Washington terms and we created a Department of Homeland Security which I knew from the very beginning and I remember saying this at the time was not going to be the answer. I did too good right so it was an aggregation of parts of things but you're still going to have an energy problem because you started diplomatic function. You still had an intelligence function. You still had a military. All these things weren't going to go away and by the way under U._S.. Law There are state and local jurisdictions as well who kinda think they're in charge. I remember during Hurricane Sandy. I was deputy secretary. Hey Defense and so we were up there trying to help out in New York and New Jersey. Yes and President Obama said to me. Don't be parochial. Help the country and I said all my people don't mess around. Just don't ask ask whether it's your job. Don't ask whether it's your stuff do it do it and so that was the spirit everyone ahead but then you get up there and you realize that there's a governor of Connecticut Governor New York Governor New Jersey and a mirror her New York who thinks none of the other exists and they're the people who are really calling the shots at you have to fall in behind them and give them support give them support and and so the reality of defending the country whether it's cyber or storm or some other form of terrorist attacker would were whatever it is in warfare. It's mostly us not entirely us even then but it's mostly us but in cyber it's it. It's first of all your responsibility if you have an enterprise and it depends upon information technology to succeed then you have the same responsibility to your shareholders and your employees and your customers <hes> as you do in any other matter. Nobody's going to get you off that Hook one one last question <hes> the future of NATO. You spend a lot of time in in Brussels at the North Atlantic Council <hes> and I always thought that was our one of our if not our greatest military asset was the fact that we had in the lions of of Democracies <hes> that the shared some oh the burden we always wanted them to take more of the burden but they shared some of the burden and now the president just attacks them all the time and I I. I wonder if you know ten years from now. We'll have a native well. I certainly hope but I actually believe we will but it may be a weakened one. <hes> the reason I think will have one is that this is a very strong institution and you know you know that institutions that take decades gates to build can be destroyed a few years. You're absolutely right on the other hand. There's a lot of strength in resilience in this institution the critical ingredient of which is the shared values that most most of these countries have that's bigger glue particularly among democracies than maybe those of us who are geo-strategically inclined purely fully appreciate the flip side of that is them being democracies that is is that that once you have disrespected or ticked off the population of another country even if their leadership can't possibly do what you want even if it's the right thing for the their country and you and even if you've changed your policy won't survive they won't survive and so you gotta be very careful about disrespecting another country that is a democracy because it's not like Kim Jong Un and you can call them rocket man one day A._N._C. Love him the next and Hills Zig Zag and he doesn't have to ask anybody's permission. It's just that Theresa may now or Angle Merckel or Shinzo obey because they have beneath them people who will take themselves personally take umbrage at the way their country or their leaders being treated and that's hard to reverse Ash Carter. There's so much in the book the five sided box that we could talk about <hes> we could do twenty <hes> hours of this podcast August <hes> but thank you for doing this hour and <hes> thank you for writing the book and thank you most of all for your service not just as secretary of defense but for decades in the Pentagon thank you thanks for having me Dick and I hope people enjoy the book I want to say. It's not a Washington memoir now. No it certainly not it's. It's a different kind of book. It's about the Pentagon it's about the Pentagon and the real Pentagon not the one that <hes> you may hear about elsewhere Ash Carter. Thanks very much thank you. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. If you did please go to wherever you get your podcasts and rate us so that others will get your recommendation and if you want to see a list of other season one and season two shows go to future state PODCAST DOT COM and also at that website and you'll see what we are reading the books of Twenty nineteen and that we think you'll like many of which were going to talk about on the podcast but they're more books there as well one book. You'll find there. I hope you'll read is the fifth domain by Rob Janaki and meet it's about cyber war and how to get from cyber war to cyber piece. It's ridden in well. I hope is clear. English has lots of real stories and real people as well as some recipes for getting decipher these the fifth domain can be preordered now traveler insurance for future state are made by Sire Travel C. I. R. E. Sira Travel Dot Com for or your personal travel as well as your business travel. Don't think you can do it as well as the experts at sired we use them. We trust them. They're the best in the business sire traveling dot com.

Coming up next