If President Obama has his way, he looks to be your new Secretary of Defense.
The man above the post is Ashton Carter. President Obama recently nominated him as Defense Secretary to replace the exiting Chuck Hagel. You probably know next to nothing about him. That’s cool! We’ll ask the questions so you don’t have to.
Ok… so who’s this Ashton Carter guy then?
Ashton Carter is a Harvard professor – in theoretical physics – and former Defense official. He has a very impressive resume within the national defense community, particularly in nuclear policy and weapons spending where his expertise came in handy during last year’s sequestration talks when the military budget needed to be cut.
So he has government experience then?
He has worked in the Pentagon under both the Clinton and Obama Administrations. In 2011 he climbed up the ladder and became Deputy Secretary of Defense where he managed much of the day-to-day decision making. But he returned to academia in 2013. Regardless he’s been in-and-out of the Pentagon for most of his professional career.
If he’s so prominent in the Defense community, how come no one’s ever heard of him?
That’s because he’s a company man of sorts. Unlike many other candidates in these high level positions, Carter doesn’t necessarily seek the political spotlight. By working within the Pentagon’s bureaucratic power structure, he moved up the ladder by providing his knowledge and expertise to higher ups.
So is he a safe choice compared to Chuck Hagel?
Yes absolutely! There was so much pushback when Hagel was nominated in 2013 for Defense Secretary due to his views on Israel. Carter on the other hand is loved by basically everyone in the Defense community. Two of his biggest fans are Republicans, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who have considerable clout in the armed services community.
Then I guess he has no critics?
Well now I wouldn’t say that. Carter is known to be very hawkish when it comes to regimes like North Korea. Also he didn’t agree with President Obama when it came to withdrawing US forces from Iraq. So you could see a few liberals being concerned with the nomination. Another big mark against Carter is that he has little expertise on the Middle East. Considering there are so many military operations within the region, ideally you would want a Secretary of Defense that knows that particular area inside-and-out.
So then why would President Obama nominate him?
Because unlike Hagel, Carter has considerable cred within the Defense community because he came up through the bureaucratic structure. As we said before, the Obama Administration has some real problems when it comes to communication between the White House and Pentagon. They never seem to be on the same page. A nomination like Carter would definitely bridge that gap.
So does Ashton Carter get nominated?
Yeah, that would be a pretty safe bet. Considering President Obama nominated him, my guess is the liberals within the Democratic Party shouldn’t have a problem during the nomination process. Plus Republicans look to love the guy, so I can’t see them putting up a fight like they did with Hagel. Even with the Senate and House having a Republican majority, Carter should be nominated easily.