Ashton Carter likely next Pentagon chief: reports03 december 2014, 11:37
The former number-two ranking official at the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, will likely be named as the next US defense secretary, American media reported Tuesday, AFP reports.
President Barack Obama was poised to nominate Carter -- a physicist turned national security policy wonk -- to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, "barring any last minute complications," CNN reported.
CNN cited several unnamed administration officials and The Washington Post also reported Obama would nominate Carter.
The White House declined to confirm or deny the reports but said Carter was on a "short list" of candidates and highlighted his qualifications for the post.
Carter had served "very, very ably" as the former deputy defense secretary and enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
As Carter had been confirmed by lawmakers for his previous position by unanimous consent, "this is an indication that he fulfilled some of the criteria that we've discussed in the past," Earnest said.
"He is somebody that does have a detailed understanding of the way that the Department of Defense works," he said.
Pentagon officials acknowledged to AFP that Carter was among the top contenders for the post but could not confirm if a final decision had been taken.
Hagel, the outgoing Pentagon chief, announced his resignation last week. Officials privately said he was forced out after losing the confidence of the White House, as the United States wages an air war against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
From professor to weapons czar
Carter, 60, has gained a reputation as an expert on hi-tech weapons and military budgets, portraying himself as a reformer intent on making the vast Pentagon bureaucracy more efficient.
While Carter is fluent with weapons programs and technological trends, he has less experience overseeing war strategy and has never served in uniform -- unlike his predecessor, Hagel, who was wounded in the Vietnam War.
An academic by training who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford, Carter worked in the Pentagon during Bill Clinton's presidency overseeing nuclear arms policies and helped with efforts to remove nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other former Soviet territories.
A former professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, Carter served as the Pentagon's top weapons buyer from 2009 to 2011 and then as deputy defense secretary until 2013.
When Carter stepped down last year, officials denied reports that he had clashed with Hagel.
Although he has served under two Democratic presidents, Carter is not a heavily partisan figure and the US Senate would likely endorse his nomination, analysts say.
Carter would be a "great" choice, said Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "He is very highly qualified."
He added it was possible lawmakers could expedite a nomination for the Pentagon job in the next few weeks before a newly-elected Republican majority takes over the Senate in the new year.
Senator James Inhofe, the current ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said if Carter was chosen he "should have a very easy path" to confirmation by lawmakers.