President Obama nominated former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to replace Chuck Hagel at the helm of the Pentagon, an announcement not attended by Hagel.
Carter handed in his resignation in October 2013 after Hagel was picked for Defense secretary. He’d been a highly knowledgeable and powerful force inside the Defense Department, serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from April 2009 until October 2011, when he assumed the DSD role.
He’s a noncontroversial pick who should receive quick confirmation from the Senate. Hagel had promised to stay on at the Pentagon until his successor was confirmed.
A Defense official told the White House pool that Hagel would not attend the ceremony because he “believes strongly that this day belongs to Ash Carter and his nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense.”
“As Secretary Hagel knows better than most, today is a day that is to celebrate Ash, his family, and all that he will accomplish,” the official added. “The Secretary is proud of Ash and of their friendship and does not want in any way to detract from or distract the proper focus of the day.”
Obama began the announcement with a self-back-pat for the new job numbers out today. The unemployment rate was steady at 5.8 percent with 321,000 non-farm jobs added.
He lauded Carter as someone who combines “strategic perspective and technical know-how” and who is a fan of Motown.
“We’re going to have to squeeze everything we can out of the resources we have,” Obama said of the Pentagon mission going forward.
Hagel released a statement stressing he “strongly supported” Carter’s nomination.
“Over a distinguished career of public service, Ash has served eleven secretaries of defense. He has held the number two and number three jobs at the Pentagon – and, for both, was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate. He is a renowned strategist, scientist, and scholar with expertise spanning from international security and counterterrorism to science, technology, and innovation. And I know that Ash and Stephanie are committed to America’s men and women in uniform, and their families,” Hagel said.
“In my first year as secretary, when Ash was my deputy, I had the opportunity to work with him on some of our nation’s toughest national security challenges. I relied on him to lead some of the Defense Department’s most important initiatives,” he continued.
“If confirmed as secretary of defense, Ash Carter would make important contributions to our nation’s security and armed forces. I urge the United States Senate to confirm Ash without delay, and, until then, I look forward to continuing my service as secretary and ensuring a smooth transition.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reacted positively to Carter’s selection, noting his wealth of experience.
“However, it does not matter how qualified a nominee is for Secretary of Defense if the White House will not engage them in decision making,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. “The new Secretary must be empowered to develop a cohesive long-term plan to combat threats such as ISIS. America cannot continue to lead from behind on issues of national security at home and abroad, and this administration needs to let experts, not politics, drive our policies.”
“I expect he will face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about President Obama’s failing national security policy, but I expect he will be confirmed,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).