Ashton Carter expected for Pentagon post

Updated: 2014-12-05 14:27

By Chen Weihua in Washington and Zhang Yuwei in New York(China Daily USA)

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The man expected to be appointed the next US secretary of defense has a strong insider resume, the support of key Republicans in the Senate and a cooperative approach to China.

US mainstream media, from The Associated Press to The New York Times, have reported that President Barack Obama has decided to nominate Ashton Carter, 60, a former deputy secretary of defense, for the position.

Quoting unnamed administration officials, AP said Obama could announce the nomination as early as this week.

It has been reported that Carter has kept good relations with powerful Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a good sign for his confirmation by the Senate.

AP quoted Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, as saying that he supports the choice "very strongly".

Ashton Carter expected for Pentagon post

In his previous speeches, Carter defended the US "rebalance to Asia" strategy that has created a lot of suspicion in China. But he emphasized the importance of maintaining good ties with China and increasing military-to-military exchanges.

In August 2012, Carter met with a Chinese military delegation led by Cai Yingting, the deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, who is now commander of the PLA Nanjing Military Region.

"We seek to strengthen and grow our military-to-military relationship with China, commensurate with our political and economic relationship," he said in a meeting at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in April 2013.

"Building and sustaining a positive and constructive relationship with China is central to the success of our rebalancing strategy."

In his remarks at the Wilson Center in Washington in October 2012, Carter tried to dispel the concern that the US rebalancing strategy is meant to contain China.

"To those who have concerns, I'd say the same thing: Watch the steps," he said.

"And the steps we want to take are ones that are cooperative. We're reaching out. We're trying to do more with the Chinese military and make the Chinese military part of this security mix, which we are also an essential part of but not the only part of," Carter said.

"Sustaining this effort (US rebalance to Asia) to craft a security order in Asia that makes room for a rising China without crowding out rising countries in Southeast and South Asia will fall to the next defense secretary," said John Schaus, a fellow in the international security program at CSIS and a former Pentagon official whose responsibilities include the management of US-China military-to-military exchanges.

If Carter is confirmed, it would be his fourth senior job at the Pentagon.

As deputy secretary of defense from October 2011 to December 2013, he served as chief operating officer overseeing an annual budget of more than $600 billion and 2.4 million civilian and military personnel. He also served as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from 2009 to 2011, and as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy from 1993 to 1996.

Carter had previously worked as a senior partner at Global Technology Partners, which focuses on advising investment firms on technology and defense, as well as an adviser to Goldman Sachs on global affairs.

Carter also has an impressive educational and academic background, with a PhD in theoretical physics from Oxford University in 1979. He has taught at universities and is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 100 articles on physics, technology, national security and management.

Unlike many Pentagon chiefs, such as the last two, Hagel and Leon Panetta, Carter has not served in the military or the Congress but is said to have good relationships with military leaders.

Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University, praised the work of the departing Hagel.

"I think Mr. Hagel did a good job at managing the US-China military relationship," Dunlap said. "He was a strong advocate of military-to-military cooperation in an effort to promote transparency and to help avoid dangerous misunderstandings. He also looked for opportunities to cooperate with China to fight common threats such as piracy," Dunlap said.

"I also believe that whoever succeeds Mr. Hagel will have much the same approach to China as he did. It is often the case that militaries can have good relations with each other, even when their governments are in disagreement over political matters."

"Ashton Carter is a good, sensible choice to lead DOD at this point in the second Obama administration. A competent manager, he understands very deep technical issues. Defense and security circles in Washington respect him and, personally, I welcome the top level bureaucratic support which I gather he's consistently provided for the Asia rebalancing policy," James Clad, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs from 2007-2009, told China Daily.

US media have described Carter as the only candidate standing at this moment after Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense from 2009 to 2012, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson decided to withdraw their names from the White House short list.

CNN reported that Democratic Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan also said they did not want the job.

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