Ashton Carter Appears To Be Pick To Replace Hagel At Pentagon

CNN is reporting that Ashton Carter, who formerly served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2011 until just last December and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics prior to that, will in all likelihood be named to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense:

Washington (CNN) — Ashton Carter, the former second-in-command at the Pentagon, appears to be the top choice to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Barring any last minute complications, Ash Carter will be President Barack Obama’s choice as the new Secretary of Defense, several U.S. administration officials told CNN.

An administration official had said that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, a former General Counsel at the Pentagon, was also still on the list of possibilities, but on Tuesday morning, sources said Johnson was no longer being considered. The prospect of an additional confirmation hearing for Johnson’s replacement if he were to move to the Pentagon as the Senate switches to Republican control would have been problematic for the White House.

Hagel announced his resignation last week, but has said he will stay on until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Carter, who served as Deputy Defense Secretary under both Leon Panetta and Hagel, would bring a wide range of experience to a department confronting multiple crises in the Middle East and preparing to enter a new phase in Afghanistan as the NATO combat mission ends.

Carter’s ability to hit the ground running from his past experience at the Pentagon, in addition to the respect many senior military leaders have for him are seen as major benefits to winning confirmation should Obama nominate him.

“His career has sort of prepared him perfectly for this kind of a moment,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a defense industry analyst at the Brookings Institution.

In addition to a broad understanding of the Pentagon bureaucracy, Carter is seen as a master of managing large budgets, a premium in the present era of continued belt tightening on Capitol Hill, as well as an expert on weapons acquisitions.

Hagel announced his resignation last week, but has said he will stay on until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Carter, who served as Deputy Defense Secretary under both Leon Panetta and Hagel, would bring a wide range of experience to a department confronting multiple crises in the Middle East and preparing to enter a new phase in Afghanistan as the NATO combat mission ends.

Carter’s ability to hit the ground running from his past experience at the Pentagon, in addition to the respect many senior military leaders have for him are seen as major benefits to winning confirmation should Obama nominate him.

“His career has sort of prepared him perfectly for this kind of a moment,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a defense industry analyst at the Brookings Institution.

In addition to a broad understanding of the Pentagon bureaucracy, Carter is seen as a master of managing large budgets, a premium in the present era of continued belt tightening on Capitol Hill, as well as an expert on weapons acquisitions.

Carter’s name had come up, albeit briefly, when it came time to replace Leon Panetta at the end of the President’s second term but the President, of course, ultimately went with former Senator Hagel. This time, Carter will be asked to step into a Pentagon role that has changed significantly from what it would have been had he been named to the job two years ago, Instead of a position that involved winding down the war in Afghanistan and dealing with an era of budget cuts, Carter would now be dealing with a war against ISIS that seems to be ramping up at every opportunity and a War in Afghanistan that will still involve the use of American troops in combat roles after the end of 2014, as well as the prospect of finding a way to counter the moves that Russia has made to ramp up tensions with the West over the past year. As a political matter, though, Carter seems like a generally smart appointment since he will have been through two rounds of confirmation hearings already since the start of the Obama Administration so that should help to streamline things when the 114th Congress starts.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    I’m looking forward to finding out why a guy who was confirmed twice unanimously is now unacceptable.

  2. MikeSJ says:

    This will be an opportunity to see if the Republicans actually want to govern or simply run over Obama with their clown car.

  3. CSK says:

    Better than Ashton Kutcher.

  4. Tyrell says:

    @CSK: We shall see.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    I think Dr. Carter would be a good choice. His particular expertise is in acquisition, where he started the “Better Buying Power” initiatives that his successor has continued and expanded. Since nobody in either the White House or the Congress is going to want the new Secretary to have a voice in actual military operations or foreign policy, he could use his 2 years to try to set in stone some of the back-office improvements that have been made.

  6. Tyrell says:

    It will be interesting to see how this General Carter handles ISIS. Today it was announced that ISIS has conducted another massacre: killing non-Muslims by the dozens in the most horrible manner. The towns are lined with bodies hanging from poles and fences. This sounds like something from the days of Attila the Hun, Vlad (Dracula) Tepes, and the barbarians. Keeping ISIS “contained” may be keeping them in one place but has not stopped the killing. It is time to take off the kid gloves and deliver a knockout blow. It is evident that Secretary Hagel must have come to the same conclusion, but was opposed by someone higher up.
    “No terms except unconditional surrender” General U.S. Grant

  7. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: How about Aaron Carter?

  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    It will be interesting to see how this General Carter handles ISIS.

    A) Dr. Carter. He’s a civilian.
    B) The Secretary of Defense has essentially no role in “handling ISIS”. That’s a job for the President (as Commander in Chief), the Congress, the Joint Chiefs, and the military services.

    It is time to take off the kid gloves and deliver a knockout blow.

    Sure. You have any suggestions on exactly how to do that, in a way that won’t just make things worse in the long run? Click your heels three times? Sing Kum-Ba-Yah real loud?

  9. Guarneri says:

    Great. One of the 3-4 most important executives in government is a purchasing agent.

  10. Paul Hooson says:

    I miss a lot of the Reagan Administration appointees, which is surprising because I never voted for Reagan. Many of the Obama cabinet members strike me as lightweights that I would never appoint myself. Few Obama appointees give me a secure feeling of comfort to sleep at night…

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    As god is my witness, the first time I read this headline I thought it said “Ashton Kutcher” instead of Ashton Carter.

    Which, come to think of it, would at least have been a very interesting choice….

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    Many of the Obama cabinet members strike me as lightweights that I would never appoint myself.

    This does seem to be an area where Democratic presidents could use a lot of improvement. They avoid the outright sociopaths like Cheney and James Watt, but that’s about the best you can say. See also: ambassadorial appointments.

  13. Rick DeMent says:

    I don;t think that someone who’s resume is “That 70’s Show” and “Punked” has the qualifications to be SoD.