Media Availability by Secretary Mattis en route to Seattle
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: (Off mic) And it was pulled off, you know, it’s a unanimous effort.
I’m going out here, and this is a long-scheduled trip. I mean, this is not something I’m doing, again, all of the sudden. I mean, any time you go to a nuclear submarine base, ok, this has been on the schedule for weeks. Many weeks, months, right now.
So just — I want to be sure that it’s not mischaracterized in your mind that — as something that just popped up, like, “What’s going on?”
I’m also going to be talking to some West Coast companies, every one of which, you know, you’ve heard from me – Amazon, Google, and all the rest. I lived, for three years, on the West Coast — for three-and-a-half years, after I got out of the Marines. I lived right on — right in — right on Sand Hill Road, in Silicon Valley.
[I’m a] Big admirer of what they do out there, about the way they germinate ideas, the way they harvest ideas, from one breakthrough, rapidly, to another, and that — So I’m going out to see what we can pick up in DIUx (Defense Innovation Unit Experimental).
I don’t embrace it; I enthusiastically embrace it, and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter had the — had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.
So what I like to do — I haven’t traveled across with lots of you — I’ve traveled with (inaudible). But I like to just talk to you when I start on a trip, let you know kind of, you know, what — why I’m taking all the government’s money to make the trips, you know, and go out there, and what I’m trying to gain from it.
It’s mostly where I’m in listening mode and I want to hear what’s going on with the Sailors who work our nuclear deterrent, our most survivable leg of the nuclear deterrent, a few forward-thinking people who have shown an ability to innovate on a — on a scale that is — that is exhausting, just mind-blowing.
And so that’s — that’s what’s going on. You have any questions at all for me?
Q: A lot. Are you answering any questions on the statement?
STAFF: Just — just, sir, we’re on the record. Do you want to answer questions?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: Great. I wanted to ask exactly — the last line, it says — let’s see — what — what would North Korea do that would sort of the — prompt any kind of action from the U.S.?
SEC. MATTIS: Oh, I won’t speculate on that. No, no. No.
Q: It says any arms race or conflict that initiates. So what would that — what would that mean? What would that mean?
SEC. MATTIS: I can’t really expand on it. Thanks for asking. The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)–regime deck will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours, OK, and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.
Q: Let me ask you, Mr. Secretary — so, this morning, the President specifically tweeted out this idea that, when he came into office, one of his first orders was to modernize — I don’t have the line in front of me, but modernize the nuclear arsenal —
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: — as part of improving readiness, et cetera.
You talk about the improved readiness when it comes to nuclear infrastructure —
SEC. MATTIS: (inaudible) —
Q: — the improved — the emphasized readiness of the ballistic missile defense, nuclear deterrent forces — you mentioned specifically in your statement. Can you give us any greater detail as to —
SEC. MATTIS: For the growing threat, in the first part, I emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces, yeah.
Q: Right. So can you give us any greater details — since President Trump said, that was one of his first orders, was to improve the existing nuclear readiness — the existing arsenal, can you give us any greater sense as to what’s been done during your tenure to try to improve that?
SEC. MATTIS: No, I don’t think I want to tell the adversary what we’ve done. Yeah, I had to think my way through it. I think it’s a very good — it’s a very legitimate question.
I think also you’re aware that we are reviewing our nuclear posture right now. Obviously, we’re reviewing our ballistic missile defense. You know that’s going on. We’ve been very open about it.
So there are any number of things underway, but I don’t want to get into the specifics. I hope for confidentiality on those things.
Q: Can I ask you – the President — yesterday when he said “fire and fury.” Were you surprised by that or did they give you a heads-up he was going to articulate that view?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah, again, Tony, what I want to do is say this is my statement. This is where I stand on it. And I want to make certain that this is where I stand right now.
The President is — I was not elected. The American people elected the President. And he — I think what he’s pointing out is simply that — that these provocations — you can see his diplomatic effort to try and stop it.
And he’s just showing the — the — the — the concern he has, that is shared, obviously, globally, when you see that kind of unanimous Security Council result. That — that’s what he’s conveying.
Q: But his rhetoric — the world will — “fire and fury, the world” – is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
SEC. MATTIS: The rhetoric is up to the President. This is my rhetoric.
Q: Can you define “stand down” in pursuit of nuclear weapons?
SEC. MATTIS: Say that again?
Q: Can you define “stand down” in this context?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
What we’re — what we’re looking at here is if you look at, for example, South Korea’s — what their policy is on nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, if you look at Japan’s policy on nuclear weapons on the Korean [Peninsula], if you look at China’s policy, if you look at our policy, it is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
So, they are the only ones who are trying to nuclearize — who are nuclearizing this through provocations and rhetoric that is alarming to the entire world.
I mean, I get questions about this every time I meet with foreign leaders. Not just — not just about South Korea. This is not just about Japan. It’s not just about the United States. And it’s not just about China or Russia. These are the nations that border or have interests, alliances right there. This is a global problem.
I hear about this every time I meet. I won’t go into those details and say what each one said, but it comes up from Brussels to — to Singapore, Shangri-La — from NATO to Shangri-La, put it that way.
Q: So the goal is still a denuclearized Korean Peninsula?
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon?
Q: That goal is still a denuclearized Korean Peninsula?
SEC. MATTIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s the goal of the Chinese. It’s the same policy goal of the United States, of Japan.
Q: What do you make of the reports that North Korea now can fit a miniaturized warhead on a missile now?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah, I’m not — I’m not going to discuss that.
Q: Okay. And then, should folks in Guam be worried?
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon?
Q: Should folks in Guam be worried in response to North Korea’s threat?
SEC. MATTIS: No.
Q: Is there a military solution to North Korea’s nuclear program?
You recall, three years ago, before the Iran agreement, there was a lot of discussion on whether conventional attacks could delay or derail Iran’s capabilities.
SEC. MATTIS: (inaudible)
Q: What’s your take on the — North Korea, in terms of the use of military force to derail —
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.
Q: — Korea’s capabilities?
SEC. MATTIS: What we’re doing is a diplomatically-led effort that is succeeding in drawing the international community together and speaking with one voice. You just saw it. That’s where we’re at.
Do I have military options? Of course I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either — that we — this is a — multilateral military options that we have.
And of course there’s a military solution.
But what we’re trying to do here is leave it loud and clear that — if you see us — loud and clear in the diplomatic arena: It is North Korea’s choice. Do you want a much better future — the entire world community is saying one thing — or do you want a much worse future?
And I’m not going to go into the military options themselves, but of course there’s a military option. We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are – are — are robust.
Q: Is Kim a rational actor? Kim — is Kim Jong-un a rational actor?
SEC. MATTIS: I’ll leave that to you to figure out.
Q: Can I ask, actually, something not on North Korea, but on the trip in general?
Since two – the next two days we’re going to be spending in Silicon Valley. You talked about your time out there. Your predecessor viewed the —
SEC. MATTIS: Talked about what out there?
Q: Your time in Silicon Valley, the three years you lived there.
SEC. MATTIS: Oh, yeah.
Q: Your predecessor viewed the innovation initiative, the third offset or however you want to phrase it, as an existential issue for the military. It’s very much — I mean, he had several offices reporting directly to him on the idea that this innovation had to happen, otherwise the military was going to be caught flat-footed in the future.
Do you view it with that same level of urgency? Do you similarly think that the third offset is as critical to the future of the military?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah, I — I deal with a military that’s engaged in current active operations. It’s an equal obligation for me not just to maintain the current readiness, but to make certain that the secretary of defense after next has the same advantages — competitive edge, to put it in particular words — the same competitive edge that — that I enjoyed growing up in this country.
So I rate it as a top-level priority.
Q: And, I mean, some of the moves, for instance, with the new R&E (Research and Engineering) chief who’s going to be coming up — when that office gets split, STO (Special Technical Operations) is going under that R&E chief, DIUx — obviously, there’s some reorganization there.
Do you think that’ll change the agency’s emphasis on innovation in any way?
SEC. MATTIS: I’ve always thought you needed to bring the right people into an organization and reward the right behavior, because we will get the behavior we reward.
And so you’ll notice that my deputy has a different experience base, his formative years were spent differently, and brings a different skill set. You’ll notice that the lady we just brought in to AT&L (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) —
Q: Ellen Lord?
SEC. MATTIS: — Ellen Lord, has got a different and very precise skill set for what she’s doing. We have other — (inaudible).
What impressed me when I got here — and I — it’s very unusual for the Congress — excuse me — to direct a reorganization inside a department. And so I went in and read and talked to a number of people involved, read about the reorganization, talked to a number of people involved up on Capitol Hill.
And what struck me was how well they had defined the problem of trying to keep our troops in the field with everything they needed — acquisition, technology, logistics. Meanwhile, we expect that same organization to be looking 20 years down the road. And they had defined the problem so well that, when I came in, after reviewing it critically, I embraced it 100 percent.
I think they actually came up with a very sound way to address it. That does not relieve us, now, of organizing inside for success, and doesn’t relieve us of finding the most high-quality people to lead that, and that’s what we’re engaged in now. So it’s full speed ahead.
Does that give you an answer on that?
Q: Yeah — (inaudible).
Q: So DIUx, you have fully embraced the concept. You’re not going out here to be convinced?
At DIUx, you have fully embraced the concept? This trip is not to go, “Come out and show me,” basically? You’re convinced of their value?
SEC. MATTIS: Well, they’re going to show me. I want to see results. I want to see what they’re doing with their location and the ideas that they’re bringing, they’re harvesting — what are we getting out of it?
Absolutely, I want to see them in their mission. I’m not coming out here questioning the mission, I think, is what — is what you’re asking, though.
Q: Do we need more of that tech talent in the Pentagon?
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon?
Q: Do we need more tech talent in the Pentagon — in the civilian ranks?
SEC. MATTIS: We — I — that’s a good question. I don’t know right now. Let us get organized the way we are. But I — I could imagine maintaining a high percentage of STEM-background (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics-background) people — science, technology, you know, that kind of stuff. Mathematics, physics. I love that stuff.
Q: Will we have a chance to engage with you toward the end? Will we have a chance to engage with at the end?
SEC. MATTIS: (inaudible) – well, depending on the length of the trip, I’ll try to see you on (inaudible).