WASHINGTON: Senate Confirms Ash Carter as Defense Secretary
New Pentagon Chief.
The U.S. Senate today (February 12) confirmed the nomination of Ashton Carter to be Secretary of Defense — the fourth since Barack Obama became president.
Carter, 60, a former No. 2 civilian executive and acquisition chief at the Pentagon in the Obama and Clinton administrations, will replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.
As expected, Carter’s nomination by President Barack Obama made it through the Senate fairly swiftly. The president named him to succeed Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and Vietnam Army combat veteran, in December. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted unanimously February 10 to recommend Carter to the full Senate, which approved the nominee, by a vote of 93-5, just two days later.
Carter will inherit an array of defense and foreign policy challenges that are likely to help define the remaining two years of Obama’s presidency, Bloomberg Business noted. He must guide the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan when many military officers and some members of Congress want to slow it. He also will be a central figure in the debate over Obama’s request for congressional authorization for the war against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
In a White House statement, Obama praised Carter as “a key leader of our national security team in the first years of my presidency” adding that “with his decades of experience, Ash will help keep our military strong as we continue the fight against terrorist networks, modernize our alliances, and invest in new capabilities to keep our armed forces prepared for long-term threats.” Yet the president passed over Carter in favor of Hagel two years ago. Hagel, who announced his resignation in November, stepped down “under pressure from Mr. Obama,” the New York Times noted, “over the mounting conflicts in the Middle East and agitation from Republicans, including those with whom Mr. Hagel once served in the Senate.”
Carter will be back before the Senate Armed Services Committee early next month to defend Obama’s $585.2 billion defense budget request for fiscal year 2016 (October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016), which is about $35 billion above the funding cap set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — which could impose severe budget cuts through the process known as sequestration again in FY 2016.
At his confirmation hearing, Carter called across-the-board sequestration cuts risky, adding that they cause “turbulence and uncertainty that is wasteful.” At that hearing Carter also said he was inclined to support giving “lethal arms” to Ukraine’s military in its battle against Russian-backed separatists. He also said the violent extremist organization which the U.S. military calls ISIL (for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is the “most immediate threat” among many facing the United States. Despite threats from the Middle East and pressure on NATO allies and partner nations from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Carter said he supported the administration’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific area.
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