Asked at a Camp Pendleton event today how servicemembers can be adequately protected, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon has “taken some measures since Chattanooga” and is “going to take some additional ones.”
“Well, force protection is Job One for all of us. And that’s not just — not just abroad, but here at home. That’s the world in which we live. And there will be a few troubled losers who are on the Internet too much and so forth and decide to take up and — and attack Americans, including servicemembers. And we have to protect ourselves, and we need to protect you — the — without losing contact with the society from which we’re recruiting people,” Carter told the Marines.
At a memorial earlier this month for those killed in the shooting spree — Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells, 21, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26 — Carter said the “meaning” of 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez’s rampage was “yet unclear.” Abdulazeez raved about jihad on his blog and downloaded messages of late AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The Defense secretary said today he’s “waiting for the services to sort out” their security recommendations, “and the only reason it’s complicated is that our facilities are some are in strip malls, if you’re talking about recruiting centers. Some are in isolated areas. Some are in Times Square.”
“And so we need to think through what’s the appropriate force protection posture for each one of those. But force protection and protecting those who protect us has to be Job One, and will until we inflict the final defeat on this particular movement, and I’m sad to say this, but the — terrorism is going to be part of our future, unfortunately, as far into the future as I can see. Because you — and not necessarily this particular kind, this Islamist extremist kind that was behind al-Qaeda and that was — is behind ISIL,” Carter continued.
“But other forms of extremism, it just exists, and I can’t tell you that once we defeat ISIL, this is going to be all over. There are going to be disturbed people and there are going to be radical people, and who knows what radical ideas they’ll have in the future. And one of our jobs is to protect our society. And in order for our people to do that and your families to do that, we need to protect our military.”
Carter was then pressed by a gunnery sergeant on whether the Defense Department will consider concealed carry permits.
“We are looking at a wide variety of force protection techniques, tactics, and procedures for the variety of our facilities, and obviously having armed people as we do at many of our facilities, not all of our facilities now, is an option,” he said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who was also at the event, noted Carter’s “cautioned” answer and said “Chattanooga taught us one thing, which is our uniformed service personnel need to at least not be guaranteed to be without arms.”
Carter was also asked about the most significant challenges he sees ahead in his tenure.
“We have had over the last year the ugly phenomenon called ISIL that originated in Iraq and Afghan — and sorry, and Syria, and which we must defeat and we will defeat, but it’s going to take some time and some effort, and that’s the effort and time that we’re expending. But they have got to go,” he said.
“And that was something that essentially emerged just last summer from the ashes of al-Qaeda and radicalism in that part of the world. And it’s going to be something that we’re going to have to defeat and we will defeat, and of course the Marine Corps will be part of that, of inflicting that defeat.”
The other thing he’s really worried about is Vladimir Putin and Russia.
“It seems that that’s the direction he wants to take them, towards one of more confrontation,” Carter said. “And we’re simply going to have to check that. Both on our own — in our own security interest and because we have important allies and friends in that part of the world, and we have important treaty commitments in the case of NATO.”