Obama names Stanford's Ashton Carter as secretary of defense

If confirmed by the Senate, Ashton Carter, a Stanford visiting scholar with deep experience in international defense issues, will become the U.S. secretary of defense.

President Barack Obama has nominated former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, a visiting scholar at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), as his next secretary of defense.

Rod SearceyAshton Carter

An expert at strategic military affairs and nuclear weapons policy, visiting scholar Ashton Carter has been nominated as U.S. secretary of defense.

Carter joined Stanford earlier this academic year as the Payne Distinguished Visitor to FSI and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Carter, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and is well known in academic and technology circles.

"Ash is rightly regarded as one of our nation's foremost national security leaders," Obama said at a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

"As a top member of our Pentagon team for the first five years of my presidency, including his two years as deputy secretary, he was at the table in the Situation Room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting," Obama said. "I relied on his expertise, and I relied on his judgment."

Carter, if confirmed as the nation's 25th defense secretary, will succeed Chuck Hagel, who announced his resignation on Nov. 24.

"I accept the offer because of the deep respect and admiration that Stephanie and I have for the men and women in uniform," Carter said, referring to his wife, Stephanie Carter. "If confirmed for this job, I pledge to you my most candid, strategic advice."

Carter stepped down from his post at the Pentagon late last year after serving two years as the deputy secretary of defense. As the agency's second-ranking civilian, he oversaw a $600 billion budget and 2.4 million uniformed and civilian personnel. From 2009 to 2011 Carter was the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.

As the Defense Department's chief weapons buyer, he was widely credited with dumping outdated weapons systems and orchestrating a plan to cut $500 billion in defense spending over the next decade. He also helped to push through speedy production of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle – known as the MRAP – which is believed to have saved thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

"President Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Ash Carter as his next Secretary of Defense," said FSI Senior Fellow Michael McFaul, who worked with Carter for several years in the Obama administration while McFaul was Washington's ambassador to Moscow. "There is no one in the country more qualified for that position than Ash."

Carter is the Payne Distinguished Visitor at FSI, responsible for delivering several lectures, including the annual Drell Lecture sponsored by FSI's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

"We congratulate Ash on his critical new assignment," said FSI Director Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. "The Institute has benefited enormously from his experience as a scholar and public servant, his accessibility and his engagement at Stanford. We're grateful for his contributions to our research and teaching on international security and other global challenges."

Though he has no uniformed military service, Carter is an expert at strategic military affairs and nuclear weapons policy. He earned his bachelor's degrees in physics and in medieval history from Yale in 1976, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Rhodes Scholar and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford in 1979.

"Ash Carter is a superb choice," said CISAC Co-Director Amy Zegart, who is also a senior fellow at Hoover. "His extraordinary talent, energy and integrity are evident in everything he does. Though we will miss having him at CISAC, we take great comfort in knowing that Stanford's loss is the nation's gain. Ash will serve with honor and distinction."

Carter joined the Defense Department from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was a professor and chair of the International Relations, Science and Security faculty.

Carter's connection with the technology business dates to his previous position as a senior partner at Global Technology Partners, where he advised major investment firms on technology and defense. He is currently working with several companies in Silicon Valley.

He was a physics instructor at Oxford, a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University and MIT, and an experimental research associate at Brookhaven and Fermilab National Laboratories. From 1993 to 1996, Carter served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, responsible for policy regarding the former Soviet states, strategic affairs and nuclear weapons policy.

Carter recently joined the Markle Foundation to help lead the "Economic Future Initiative" to develop groundbreaking ideas for empowering Americans in today's networked economic landscape.

"Ash Carter is an excellent choice to lead the Department of Defense," said John Raisian, director of the Hoover Institution. "While we will miss having his scholarly expertise at Hoover, our country is gaining a great mind and true leader."