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Obama names strategic guru Carter as defence secretary

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President Barack Obama, accompanied by vice-president Joe Biden, announces Ashton Carter, left, as his nominee for defense secretary on Friday, Dec 5, 2014, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington - Image: AP

Obama names strategic guru Carter as defence secretary

The Times of India
By Chidanand Rajghatta
6 December 2014

Washington: President Barack Obama on Friday nominated veteran defence policy wonk Ashton Carter as America's 25th secretary of defence amid seismic changes in the country's global strategic outlook and in the Pentagon's internal dynamics and budgeting.

Carter will be the fourth defence secretary during the six years of Obama presidency, taking up a job that has had a high turnover and that "nobody wants", according to the Washington scuttlebutt. A former #2 in the Pentagon who was looked over for the top job when Obama chose Republican Chuck Hagel two years ago, Carter, when confirmed by the Senate, will return to a department where he is said to be a "natural fit." He has served eleven previous defence secretaries in various capacity.

"He knows the defence department inside out, which means that he will hit the ground running from Day One," President Obama said in acknowledgment of his vast experience and insider status, while announcing his nomination in the White House.

Hagel, who was unceremoniously sidelined, was conspicuously absent at the event. Carter's confirmation is expected to sail through the Senate given his strong background and sometimes hawkish views.

A Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford, he is a votary of a strong preventive defence to safeguard US interests, including building alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. "If confirmed for this job, I pledge to you my most candid, strategic advice," he told Obama at his nomination event, as Washington's power salons speculated on whether he has the heft to break through the President's inner circle that Hagel could not pierce.

Although he is a longtime Washington insider — he only recently took up a teaching assignment at Stanford — Carter has a dim view of beltway politics. He once compared working as a senior administration official in Washington to "being a Christian in the Coliseum. You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers," according to a New York Times account.

New Delhi has had recent experience in working closely with him after he was named to co-chair a joint task force to expedite sale of sensitive military equipment to India, and will be hoping he will survive the reminder of the Obama term to carry forward the bilateral defence agenda, including ambitious joint production ventures.

He and India's then National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon helmed the India-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) envisaging technology transfer and co-production and co-development of defense equipment, an enterprise that has made some progress but is still incomplete.


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