WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2016 — On the second day of a weeklong course that is essentially “Defense Department 101” for civilians, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and other officials today welcomed to the Pentagon 40 leaders in business, community organizations and academia.
The program is called the Joint Civilian Orientation Course, or JCOC, and for most of the years since 1948, the defense secretary has invited select groups of civilians to the Pentagon and to military bases to engage with troops and leaders of all five armed services and observe their work on land, at sea and in the air in the United States and sometimes internationally.
Carter, unable to meet with the attendees in person, apologized for his absence and addressed them by video.
Building New Bridges
“I know you're all busy and you could be doing something else with your August. Instead you've chosen to learn more about us and our mission to protect the American people,” he told them. “You'll see why I'm so proud to lead the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
One of the secretary’s core goals is to reach beyond what he calls a five-sided box and build new bridges between the Pentagon and the private sector, and the civilian orientation course is an important part of that mission, he said.
Over the next week as they visit military facilities in the southeast part of the nation, the group will interact with many of the extraordinary men and women serving in the U.S. military and with many dedicated DoD civilians, Carter added.
“I hope you'll take the opportunity to exchange ideas with them and with each other about our shared mission of national defense,” the secretary said. “I know you'll learn a few things from our people, but hopefully we'll learn from you as well. And when you're back please share your feedback with me and my staff.”
Before the JCOC participants heard from Work, they received background information from a range of defense officials.
Last night they spoke with Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and this morning they heard from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, who explained that the Pentagon is alone among the federal agencies in having a commercial press corps with unhindered access to the building’s public areas.
From Air Force Maj. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, vice director of the Joint Staff, participants learned about the workings of the Joint Chiefs and heard a lighthearted description of the Pentagon’s “acronym twilight zone.” And from Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell they learned about his duties as the senior enlisted advisor to Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During his remarks, Work described the Defense Department as the largest corporation on the planet with a mission that is, he said, “pretty simple -- to recruit, organize, man, equip [and] train joint forces that are ready for war and are operated forward to either preserve the peace, enforce the peace or compel the peace as ordered to us by the president.”
The department’s duality plays out this way, he said: One side of the department -- the administrative side -- focuses on making ready joint forces. The other side of the department employs joint forces at the orders of the commander in chief.
“The secretary, who’s the chief executive officer, gives vision to the department [and] sets the direction,” Work explained. “But he really is focused on how [will the department] employ those forces around the world for the president.”
The chief operating officer -- the deputy secretary himself -- is focused more on the administrative side, which produces two key products, he said.
“We produce two key products. The first product is ready forces, so everything that goes into the ready forces. Making forces ready for war is what we focus -- who are we going to recruit, where are we going to recruit from, what are that standards of recruiting, how are we going to train, what are the standards for training, are we going to integrate women in, are we going to integrate transgender service men and women in, how are we going to do all that, and how do we make ready forces?,” Work explained.
The second product they produce is a defense program that’s part of the president's budget submission and is handed over to Congress.
“So,” the deputy defense secretary said, offering them one of his favorite gags, “I always describe my job as the tethered goat in Jurassic Park.” The participants laughed in appreciation.
Work answered a range of questions -- about Congress and the budget, about the bureaucracy involved in managing the department, and several about how difficult it is to attract and retain younger people in the services today.
In his answer to the last question, the deputy defense secretary discussed Carter’s Force of the Future, and the secretary’s several initiatives seeking to reach out and work with companies in Silicon Valley in California, in Boston and in other centers of innovation.
A Closer Look
Over the years the department has conducted 85 JCOC programs for more than 7,000 participants to boost public understanding of national defense.
The competitive program seeks to demonstrate the strength and readiness of U.S. armed forces and help course attendees understand the challenges that service members face on and off the battlefield and that their families face every day.
The program also gives the public a closer look at national defense policies and programs through the eyes of the opinion leaders who take part in the program.