Ashton Carter confirmed as next US Secretary of Defense

Carter becomes fourth Pentagon chief to hold office during Obama’s two-term presidency

Carter becomes fourth Pentagon chief to hold office during Obama’s two-term presidency

WASHINGTON - Ashton Carter was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as the next Secretary of Defense.

The confirmation was widely expected as Republicans, who hold a comfortable four-seat majority in the Senate, have largely voiced their support for Carter, 60. The 93-5 vote was largely bipartisan, but all five dissenting votes came from Senate Republicans.

Carter’s nomination was approved unanimously in the Senate Armed Services committee Tuesday, paving the way for Thursday’s landslide vote.

Committee chairman Republican Sen. John McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday that Carter is “one of America’s most experienced defense professionals, respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.”

“I think Dr. Carter will be a good Secretary of Defense, who will always keep faith with our men and women in uniform and work tirelessly on their behalf and that of our national security,” he said.

A physicist by training, Carter is now the fourth Pentagon chief to hold office during Obama’s two-term presidency. Outgoing defense secretary Chuck Hagel resigned from office in November amid reports of strained relations with the White House’s national security team, but waited to leave office until the Senate confirmed a successor.

McCain said he would back Carter’s nomination “with sincere hope and sadly little confidence that the president who nominated Dr. Carter will empower him to lead and contribute to the fullest extent of his abilities.” 

“My support is conditioned on this request: the incoming Secretary needs to have the courage to speak truth to power. To Congress, yes. But also to his commander-in-chief,’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Upon entering his new role, the defense chief will be faced with a bevvy of issues at home and abroad. He will have to navigate an increasingly uncertain international security situation as budget cuts at the Defense Department put a premium on resources.

“Ash will play a central role in our work with Congress to find a more responsible approach to defense spending that makes the department more efficient, preserves military readiness, and keeps faith with our men and women in uniform and their families,” Obama said in a statement.

Among Carter’s top priorities will be pushing for Obama’s recent war powers call to Congress to authorize force against ISIL. Capitol Hill has already strongly criticized the draft it received Wednesday.

Carter previously served as the Pentagon’s number two from 2011 to 2013, and was the head of acquisitions for more than two years from April 2009 to October 2011.

He earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale University, and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University.

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