Defense Secretary: America's Enemies 'May be Evil, but They're Competitive'

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told troops at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri today to remember that America's enemies "may be evil, but they're competitive" -- so innovation needs to move at the pace where those government "jump out of their bureaucratic foxhole and realize that this is no kidding and this is serious."

"The system was used to things that took 10 years and that was a good Cold War march because the Soviet Union was kind of slow, lumbering, inexorable. You had to look ahead because they never kind of went away until they finally, finally, finally did but it was decades and decades. So, we've got to be more agile in that regard," Carter said in response to a soldier's question about quicker turnaround in modernizing warfighting equipment.

"The other reason to be agile, and this is where the innovation board comes in, is the world out there is agile. We don't invent everything any more. We're still a pretty big dog in the innovative world, but there's lots of commercial innovation, there's innovation around the world. And so I am very intent on getting the best ideas from outside that apply inside and absorbing them fast."

America's enemies, he stressed, "work hard and we've got to stay one step ahead of them."

Carter told the troops that ISIS would be destroyed by bringing "down like a tornado the huge, massive, awesome American military power to bear."

"The Iraqi army brigades from the south, the Peshmerga brigades from the north, all trained, all equipped, all enabled by us," he added of the ground assault on Mosul to retake the Iraqi city from ISIS.

"It's a nasty world out there -- in addition to ISIL, we keep our eyes on Iranians and North Koreans and Russians and Chinese."

Carter told the troops that "how you conduct yourselves and the values that you stand for" is a reason "why we have all the friends in the world."

"Most of our enemies have no friends... you've noticed that," he said. "But it's not accidental that America has the friends and allies, because we stand for the things that other people want also. They want a better future for their children, they want the security that allows them to live their lives and do the things that make life meaningful. You make that possible."

"Security is like oxygen. If you have it, you don't pay any attention to it. And sometimes, it's frustrating for all of us who do this because when we do our job well, sometimes you feel the country is taking you for granted. But on the other hand, if you don't have oxygen, it's all you think about. And our job is to give them that oxygen and that security that lets them get up in the morning and hug their kids and go to work and live their lives and dream their dreams, and that's what it's all about."