Sailors learned from the deputy secretary of Defense that the future of the country’s military will go through Naval Air Station Fallon once operations wind down after 12 years of fighting in Afghanistan.
Ashton Carter visited Hill Air Force Base (Utah) on Tuesday morning before flying to Fallon, where he first met with leaders at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. Carter said the country and the Pentagon have focused on Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade, and he remains positive about what U.S. and coalition forces are doing overseas.
“I can tell you from a military point of view, we are doing spectacular,” Carter said, adding that the Afghan security forces are becoming more proficient and fighting well alongside NATO forces.
Carter, though, said complications could occur next year as the U.S. and other countries withdraw more troops, depending on the Karzai government’s negotiations for a post-war force in Afghanistan and whether the U.S. decides to pull out.
With the declining involvement in Afghanistan, Carter said, other challenges will define the United States’ military future.
The future will be “written in Fallon,” he said.
Future funding for the military weighed on Carter’s thoughts as he spoke about internal financial restraints for the military.
“We have turbulence caused by sequestration and the shutdown,” he said. “I came from Washington, D.C., and there is nothing good to report about it. My point of view (and that of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel) is we are doing our very best to manage as responsibly as we can through an irresponsible situation.”
Carter added that civilians have been treated unfairly with pay and job freezes and furloughs.
“I frequently say to our civilians, ‘I don’t know why you put up with this,’” he said. “But you put up with this because of the mission. I don’t know and can’t tell you when this turbulence will end.”
Lt. Dave Hadaway said Carter’s frankness impressed him.
“It was very nice for him to come here since we are out in the middle of nowhere,” Hadaway said. “He was brutally honest with his opinions. It was interesting to hear his perspective from his position and not for him to mince his words.”
After attending a reception for Sailors of the Quarter, Carter headed to Las Vegas, where he met with airmen and women at Nellis Air Force Base.