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President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Ashton Carter to be his fourth Secretary of Defense in six years. He was tapped to replace outgoing Sec. Chuck Hagel, whose short-lived tenure lasted about one year.
“With a record of service that has spanned more than 30 years .... Ash is widely regarded as one our nation's national security leaders,” President Obama said. The president added that he knows the Department of Defense "inside and out" and has the varied experience that will enable him to "hit the ground running" on his first day.
Hagel did not attend the announcement ceremony that took place in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. He said he wanted the day to be focused on Carter.
Carter, who served in the Pentagon's number two job until December of last year and has served under 11 defense secretaries, will come to the job with an in-depth understanding of the department as well as the esteem of defense officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — a rare attribute amid uneasy relationships between the White House, the GOP and the military.
"I accepted (the position) because of the seriousness of the strategic challenges we face but also the bright opportunities that exist for American if we can come together," Carter said in brief remarks.
Carter said it was an honor to be nominated and promised to give the president candid military advice, subtly addressing a criticism made by two of Obama's former Defense Secretaries who said their opinions received minimal regard in a tightly-controlled White House.
The physicist-trained weapons expert was passed up for the job once before and was possibly not President Obama’s top choice. He received the nod from the President after Michele Flournoy, who was the highest-ranking woman in department as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy until she retired in 2012, told the informed the President that she would like to withdraw her candidacy.
If Carter is confirmed by the Senate, which the president said should happen with "speed and dispatch," he will be tasked with overseeing a new front in the conflict in the Middle East against ISIS. Congress has also reduced the Pentagon’s budget, which has caused some at the Pentagon and in Congress to be concerned about the future of the military.
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