On the eve of his departure, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter took a parting shot at Congress Wednesday over the constant budget battles and continuing resolutions that hampered Pentagon planning.
The inability of Congress to get past the cost-cutting sequester process under the Budget Control Act led to "shameful budget uncertainty" for the department, Carter said in shot and final remarks of thanks to uniformed personnel and civilian employees in the Pentagon auditorium.
Despite the uncertainty, Carter said he was leaving behind a military ready to meet any challenge and the demands of the new Commander-in-Chief in President-elect Donald Trump. When he walks out of the building for the last time Thursday night, Carter said, "I will be confident in the nation's and this department's future, in the brightness of its future."
The secretary added, "As all of you know, our mission is demanding and constantly changing, but I couldn't be prouder of you for what you do every day and what you've done for us. And I'm going to continue to be proud in the months and years ahead, as this department continues to live up to the incredibly high expectations Americans have for it."
Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to replace the 62-year-old Carter, who never served in uniform but worked at the Defense Department in various management roles off and in defense capacities in the private sector for nearly 35 years.
Carter was deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013 and took office as the 25th defense secretary in February 2015, succeeding Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and Army veteran of Vietnam.
From 2009 to 2011, he was undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics -- a position known as the chief weapons buyer -- and from 1993 to 1996 he was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.
For his government service, Carter has been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Pentagon's highest, on five separate occasions -- most recently last week.
Carter urged those staying on at the department to continue "making sure we always live the values we defend" in serving a military that will "retain and develop the most talented people America has to offer."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.