Ashton Carter – State Department’s Global Chiefs of Mission Conference: Analysis

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter gave a keynote luncheon address at the State Department’s Global Chiefs of Mission Conference held in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington D.C..

Carter addressed the defense 2016 budget, national security challenges, as well as strengthening the inter-agency cooperation to advance national security and trade priorities. The following are selected quotes given by Carter in his keynote with verification on how factual his statements actually were.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressing state representatives

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressing state representatives Photo Cred: CSPAN

#1 Carter delivered his speech in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington D.C., which led him to make this claim:

“It’s also a privilege for me to speak to you in this room because Benjamin Franklin, who was not only America’s first diplomat, he was also America’s first physicist, a fellow Philadelphian for that matter”

According to the U.S. Department of State Office of Historian website, Benjamin Franklin was indeed America’s first diplomat from 1776-1785. Under the American Physical Society, Franklin was also known to be the first physicist for his accomplishments with the study of electricity.

#2 Carter spoke on his day spent at Camp David with Afghanistan leaders, addressing Afghanistan’s political, economic, and military future, stating:

I spent the day at Camp David with President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah of Afghanistan, accompanied by Secretary Kerry, but also Treasury Secretary Jack Lew… And together, we addressed Afghanistan’s political, economic, and military future, with their leaders, who were working together because John Kerry brought them together into a national unity government by the way…and we discussed the future of their country”

As stated on the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry renewed U.S.-Afghanistan partnership after meeting with “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah”. In Carter’s keynote, he addressed Afghan CEO Abdullah as simply Dr. Abdullah and not his fully respected title.

It is also true that Kerry did bring the two parties together into a national unity government stating, “The partnership will promote Afghan self-reliance by using up to $800 million in U.S. aid to encourage and measure Afghan-led reform and development activities and strengthen Afghan institutions’ sustainability and fiscal transparency”, in a speech given at Camp David.

#3 The Defense Secretary transitions into speaking about the defense budget and its need to expand using Thomas Jefferson as an example.

When Thomas Jefferson became our nation’s first Secretary of State, he led this department, I’m told, with a sum total of two ambassadors, ten counselors, and three clerks – and his budget was so tight that he sold one of his horses and some furniture to send money to our missions overseas.”

The U.S. Department of State does back up the claim that Thomas Jefferson was the nation’s first Secretary of State, however has document of different departments under his led. In 1790, the Department of State under control of Jefferson consisted of a chief clerk, three other clerks, and a messenger. It is uncertain whether or not Jefferson actually sold his horse or furniture to send money to the missions overseas, but it is a kind thought.

#4 Carter encourages state representatives to join forces and work together, even if records of past relationships have showed otherwise.

In the inter-agency process that produced NSC-68, for example, a famous document, the clash between Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson grew so acrimonious that it provoked Acheson to later write that Johnson’s conduct was so “outrageous” that “it did not surprise [him] when some years later he underwent a brain operation.”

In the book, “Louis Johnson and the Arming of America: The Roosevelt and Truman Years” by Keith D. McFarland and David L. Roll, it addresses the angry and bitter relationship between Acheson and Johnson.

#5 Carter made a claim of the date and start of his career, stating:

“In the Reagan years, “Cap” Weinberger, for whom I worked, and Al Haig butted heads regularly, and were not actually on speaking terms most of the time. When I started my career during those years in the 1980’s, it was also common for mid- and even some senior-level DoD employees’ – for their world to exist solely within the Pentagon, just with occasional communication to the White House.”

According to AllGov.com, Carter stepped foot into his first government job in 1980. Analyzing proposals for basing MX missile systems for Congress was his first governmental duty until Bill Clinton made him assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in 1993.

#6 In discussing the investments in our national security budget, Carter quotes Obama on his rejection to accept a budget that locks in sequestration.

“That is why President Obama has said he will not accept a budget that locks in sequester going forward …or one that severs the vital links between all the pieces of our national security – from State to AID to Homeland Security to DoD.”

Obama gave a speech on February 2 in Washington were he addressed the matter of not accepting a budget that locks in sequester. He states, “I will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward.”

#7 The Defense Secretary ends his speech with a request from Congress to help support new trade investments. He uses many statistics to support his ideas and claims.

“We know that 95% of the world’s customers live beyond our borders, and the spending power of middle-class consumers in today’s emerging markets is expected to increase by 20 trillion dollars over the next decade. Also consider that, just five years ago, the U.S. and Europe accounted for around 50% of global middle class consumption.  Asia accounted for about 20%.  Five years from now, the U.S. and European share of middle class consumption will shrink to about 30%, while Asia’s will rise to 40%.  And this trend will continue as Asia’s 570 million-strong middle class grows to about 2.7 billion consumers over the next 15 years. These facts help explain why, since the 2008 recession, our nation’s exports have contributed to almost a full third of our economic growth…exports that support more than 11 million American jobs.”

In the U.S. Chamber of Commerce documents, as well as the OECD DEVELOPMENT CENTRE working papers, each statistic Carter mentions is supported.

Emerging Middle Class Statistics Photo taken from document of U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Emerging Middle Class Statistics Photo taken from document of U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The only claim that Defense Secretary got slightly wrong was the statement, “exports that support more than 11 million American jobs”. 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, the exports support 10 million American jobs.

Watch Carter’s full speech at http://www.c-span.org/video/?325046-1/defense-secretary-ashton-carter-remarks-national-security-budget

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