Ashton Carter reportedly Obama's pick for U.S. defense secretary

Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter answers a reporter's question during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on March 18, 2013.
Former United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is reportedly President Barack Obama's choice to replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, though the White House will not announce the decision until the vetting process is complete.
Carter has never served in the military, but has a long history with the Pentagon. The New York Times reported his forthcoming selection on Tuesday, citing anonymous senior administration officials.
Carter was a key arms control figure within the Department of Defense in 1994, according to The Times, when North Korea closed its nuclear facilities to outside inspectors and began to develop nuclear weapons. He has a doctorate in theoretical physics, and later specialized in management of nuclear weapons as a professor at Harvard.
Carter was back at the Pentagon in 2009 as the official in charge of purchasing weapons, his first stint with the Obama administration. He then moved to the Pentagon's no. 2 post in 2011 as deputy secretary of defense. In that position, Carter was Obama's main official in charge of developing his strategy for a pivot to Asia.
He was considered a candidate for defense secretary when Leon Panetta left the job in 2013, but was passed over at the time. After serving for a year under Hagel at Obama's request, Carter moved on to become an executive at the Markle Foundation, an organization that "works to realize the potential of information technology to address previously intractable public problems," according to its website.
Chuck Hagel

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, listens as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, talks about his resignation during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 24.
If chosen, Carter will be tasked with leading a war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, while guiding the U.S. military through a series of budget cuts. He oversaw a $600 billion budget at the start of those cuts in 2011 while he was the deputy secretary of defense, and has argued that the best way to trim costs is through more efficient spending, not sequestration.
Although the U.S. Senate would have to approve Carter, he is admired by many influential Republican lawmakers, and would likely sail through the process. Carter is viewed as someone who can better manage a growing operation in the Middle East — unlike Hagel, who was reportedly pushed out last week, and thought to be too timid.
The probable nominee will also have to help shape the U.S. response to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, and to China's bold territory grabs in its surrounding waters. What's more, he must manage an American troop drawdown in Afghanistan, while preventing the Taliban from retaking parts of the country.

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