Secretary of Defense speaks on campus

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter addresses an audience of ROTC members and other students at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited UT Thursday and engaged in a discussion with students about the United States’ current security situation.

During the event, which was hosted by the Clements Center for National Security and the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law, Carter focused on different careers in security and how students today can help protect the nation’s security.

“When you see the kind of attacks that [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] carried out in Brussels you may ask yourself what can you do?” Carter said. “I hope you ask yourself what can you do. How can you make a difference? How can you be part of something bigger than yourself? It’s a world of opportunities.”

A majority of the attendees were students involved in the University’s Army and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps programs. Carter spoke about recruiting members with diverse backgrounds and specialties to ensure the military remains strong. 

“Every day each of you helps to crack the code in some way and we need to keep it that way so America keeps its great strength as an incubator of idea and innovations,” Carter said.

Carter talked about opportunities, such as the Defense Digital Service, for students who are not going into the military, but still want to contribute to improving the nation’s security.  The team allows individuals to work on specific projects or for short stints of time, and still have other career opportunities.

“As a computer engineering student, finding opportunities to serve with a technical skillset really interests me, and Secretary Carter’s talk today helped change my perspective of what the defense industry is like — it’s moving to embrace 21st century technologies and adopting some of the culture of Silicon Valley,” said Zeyi Lin, computer engineering and Plan II senior.

Carter spoke about what he considers the top five threats to the United States which include ISIL, Iran, North Korea, Russia and China. Although he spoke about all of them, Carter kept coming back to ISIL and the need to take out the group’s city strongholds and then follow up by creating an effective government.

Student Government vice president Rohit Mandalapu said his main concern with the goal for cities to be taken from ISIL are the civilians involved.

“The issue with that is that there are so many civilians and with carpet bombing you’re killing those people as well [as those involved in ISIL],” Mandalapu said.