U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will resign Dec. 4 after four and a half years in two Pentagon jobs, overseeing weapons programs and serving as the department’s No. 2 official.
Carter’s resignation was announced today by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who called him an “extraordinarily loyal and effective deputy secretary.” Hagel didn’t say who President Barack Obama would choose for the post. Carter’s decision to leave was “his alone,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
Carter, 59, became deputy defense secretary in October 2011 after serving as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer since April 2009. He previously worked as an arms control official in the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton.
Carter, a theoretical physicist by training, was a professor at Harvard University before joining the Obama administration.
“Public service in senior levels in Washington is a little bit like being a Christian in the Coliseum,” Carter wrote in his faculty profile at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers.”
He is known for making visits to Iraq and Afghanistan to seek feedback from troops on major U.S. weapons deployed there. During his tenure as chief weapons buyer, Carter took over management of the armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles program to expedite production and delivery. The trucks were key to protecting U.S. troops from roadside bombs.
As deputy secretary, Carter has promoted Obama’s strategy of giving more emphasis to Asia. Carter became the Obama administration’s point man for improving defense ties with India.
After Obama won a second term as president last year, Carter was under consideration for cabinet-level jobs leading the Pentagon or the Energy Department. Carter said in January that Obama asked him to stay as deputy defense secretary after choosing Hagel for the top job.