After complaints from previous Obama Pentagon chiefs about micromanaging from the White House, President Barack Obama's pick to be his next defense secretary pledged to be frank.
“If confirmed in this job, I pledge to you my most candid strategic advice," said Ashton Carter, a Pentagon veteran who has served in three high-level Defense Department positions. "I pledge also that you will receive equally candid military advice. Finally, to the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, to you, I pledge to keep faith with you and to serve our nation with the same unflinching dedication that you demonstrate every day.”
President Barack Obama jokes with Ashton Carter after Obama announced his nomination of Carter to be the next defense secretary in the Roosevelt Room at the White House December 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Carter, who served as the second in charge at the Pentagon under both secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, is expected to face a smooth confirmation process in the U.S. Senate. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Obama on Friday formally announced Carter as his choice to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Hagel, who announced his resignation last month, did not attend the announcement, despite initially being listed as an attendee.
“With a record of service spanning 30 years as a public servant and a scholar, Ash is regarded as one of the foremost nationals security leaders,” Obama said.
Carter served in the Clinton administration and then as deputy secretary of defense under two of Obama’s defense secretaries, from 2011 through 2013.
If confirmed, he will be Obama’s fourth defense secretary, after Obama first kept on Robert Gates from the Bush administration, then moved Leon Panetta, his first CIA director, into the position, and then Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and a Vietnam War veteran. Carter served as deputy secretary of defense under Panetta and then Hagel.
Both Gates and Panetta wrote memoirs critical of the Obama administration for micromanaging. According to various news leaks, Hagel also clashed with the White House.
In brief remarks, Carter said he accepted the nomination out of his high regard for Obama's leadership.
Unlike many previous defense secretaries, Carter has neither served in the military nor in Congress. He would be the first defense secretary to have served in neither since Harold Brown served under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.
Obama praised his nominee’s pursuit of reforming the DOD by getting rid of old weapons systems and making sure troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had the equipment they needed.
"When our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were struggling to defend against roadside bombs, he moved heaven and earth to rush them new body armor and vehicles," Obama said. "It’s no exaggeration to say that there are countless Americans who are alive today in part because of Ash’s efforts."
The Carter nomination likely comes with the expectation of avoiding a confirmation fight, as Carter was unanimously confirmed to No. 2 posts at the Pentagon. Further, some Senate Republicans have already expressed their support for him.
Obama pointed out he has been confirmed by the Senate on three occasions.
“My hope is in the new Congress, we’ll get the same speed and dispatch," he said.
Carter comes to the job with expertise on Russia and North Korea, two major hot spots. Another clear agenda item will be dealing with the Islamic State.
In 1999, Carter co-authored a book with Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry, which focused heavily on the prospect of Russia becoming a threat.