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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter leads the Strategic Command change of command ceremony in the Allman Facility on Offutt Air Force Base, Ne., Nov. 3, 2016.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter leads the Strategic Command change of command ceremony in the Allman Facility on Offutt Air Force Base, Ne., Nov. 3, 2016. (Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)

WASHINGTON — Defense Department employees must remain focused on critical missions across the globe as the country transitions to a Donald Trump administration in the coming months, Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrote in a brief memorandum issued Wednesday morning.

“I am committed to overseeing the orderly transition to the next commander in chief,” Carter wrote to DOD personnel. “I know I can count on you to execute all your duties with the excellence our citizens know they can expect.”

Trump defeated Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton in a close race Tuesday to serve as the 45th president of the United States. The president-elect has been critical of President Barack Obama’s handling of national security issues and the military, including the war against the Islamic State group.

In addition to fighting that terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria, U.S. military troops are deployed to more than 140 nations around the world, including in Afghanistan where some 8,400 troops remain to advise Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and conduct counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Carter and top uniformed military officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, have pledged to keep the Pentagon nonpartisan throughout the election. While many of the Pentagon’s civilian leaders are political appointees, the vast majority of DOD employees will remain in their jobs under the next presidential administration.

Carter urged DOD employees not to be distracted through the transition process.

“We must stay focused on our duty to confront current challenges and any that arise during this period,” he wrote.

The defense secretary did not mention Trump by name in the memo, but he praised the American electoral process that allowed the country’s citizens to choose a new leader “freely and peacefully.”

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.
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