WASHINGTON – The Senate easily confirmed Ashton Carter, a former number two at the Pentagon, to be the new Secretary of Defense.
The vote was 93 to 5. He will take the helm at DOD as the United States is immersed in several complex national security challenges across the globe, including the widening military campaign against ISIS.
A respected technocrat who has served in a number of high level positions at the Pentagon, Carter will replace Secretary Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator who resigned after less than two years on the job when he was unable to fully mesh with President Barack Obama’s national security team at the White House.
Carter, who has degrees in theoretical physics and medieval history from Yale and Oxford, was approved unanimously by the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. The committee held a lengthy confirmation hearing for him last week that became a proxy for Republican senators to attack the President’s handling of various international hotspots — like Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine — that Carter will now help manage.
“He is one of America’s most respected defense professionals, respected by Republicans and Democrats alike,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who chairs the committee.
“I have no doubt the vote on Dr. Carter will be overwhelmingly favorable,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, in a floor speech. “He served as the day-to-day financial officer at the Pentagon. So he is one of the few people that understands, really understands, the complexities of the Pentagon’s budget.”
At the hearing, Carter promised to be a straight shooter with Congress and the President. He even presented views on Afghanistan and Ukraine that differed slightly with current administration policy.
In a floor speech Thursday, McCain warned the biggest challenge Carter might face is “White House micromanagement of the Defense Department and over-centralization of foreign and defense policy,” which McCain said Hagel and his predecessor Lean Panetta “severely criticized.”
McCain said Hagel was frustrated by “the insular and indecisive White House national security team” on a variety of key issues.
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