The Defense Department was mum today on whether President Obama is poised to nominate Chuck Hagel’s former No. 2 to fill his job, but Ashton Carter will likely have an easy road to confirmation.
A road that will be lined with lawmakers warning the former deputy secretary of Defense that he’ll be neutered by the White House.
“I’m obviously mindful of the swirl out there in the media environment today about the potential nominee for next secretary of Defense,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today. “So let me just say right at the outset that this is a decision that only the president can make and only the president can announce. And it’s up to the president and the White House to determine the timing of any such announcement.”
“I have no information to share with you today about who the nominee might be or when the nominee might be announced,” Kirby continued. “For our part here in the Pentagon, Secretary Hagel is focused on doing his job as secretary of Defense, making sure that our men and women have all the support and resources they need to conduct the missions that they’ve been told to conduct around the world, to include many of them in harm’s way. And I think that’s important to remember as we start to head in towards the holiday season.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “as soon as we’re in a position to start making those announcements, we’ll be sure to let you know.”
“I personally am a pretty strong advocate, people who have previously performed well in deputy roles being promoted to the top job,” quipped the former deputy to Jay Carney. “So that’s been a recipe for success in filling previous personnel positions.”
After Obama selected Hagel for Defense secretary, he personally asked Carter to stay at the Pentagon as Hagel’s deputy. Carter resigned in November 2013.
“I think he’s a very good man. I think he’s been very good on defense acquisition and some other programs,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told Fox. “I just hope that he realizes that if he takes the job, he will not have influence, just as his three predecessors didn’t, on national security policy. As long as he understands that, then so be it.”
Democrats signaled approval with the potential pick, as well.
“Carter is an ultimate professional. He knows the Department of Defense inside and out, is a former assistant secretary for acquisitions and weapons development,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg. “He is a real professional, digs and drills down on questions. And I think he’s a very solid choice for the president.”
“He’s got broad experience in the Department of Defense, knows it well and also knows Capitol Hill and the dynamics of dealing with all of the complexities of the Department of Defense, especially now when we have a major engagement against ISIS and have other challenges that are — other national security, as well as fiscal challenges,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told CNN. “So he’d be a great choice.”