Ash Carter, Pentagon’s Top Budget Official, to Retire

Carter’s decision leaves a mountain of uncertain budget decisions for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the administration to manage.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter pauses as he speaks during a news briefing on the impact of the sequestration to the Department of Defense March 1, 2013.
National Journal
Kevin Baron, Defense One
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Kevin Baron, Defense One
Oct. 10, 2013, 12:08 p.m.

Ash Carter, the Pentagon’s top budget of­fi­cial and deputy sec­ret­ary of de­fense, will re­tire in Decem­ber.

Carter’s de­cision, as Con­gress grapples with the ad­min­is­tra­tion in a gov­ern­ment shut­down, leaves a moun­tain of un­cer­tain budget de­cisions for De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel and the ad­min­is­tra­tion to man­age.

In a state­ment, Hagel said he “re­luct­antly ac­cep­ted” Carter’s de­cision on Thursday. “I will al­ways be grate­ful that Ash was will­ing to stay on and serve as my Deputy Sec­ret­ary. I have con­tinu­ally re­lied upon Ash to help solve the toughest chal­lenges fa­cing the De­part­ment of De­fense.”

In­deed, Carter, who pre­vi­ously was the Pentagon’s top weapons buy­er, has long been con­sidered the top man “in the build­ing”, of­fer­ing sta­bil­ity for the De­fense De­part­ment and de­fense in­dustry com­munity as sec­ret­ar­ies Robert Gates, Le­on Pan­etta and Hagel cycled through of­fice un­der Pres­id­ent Obama.

Carter just passed the two-year mark in his cur­rent job and took no break from his pre­vi­ous post as un­der sec­ret­ary of de­fense for ac­quis­i­tion, tech­no­logy and lo­gist­ics. By last year, he was on many short lists as a can­did­ate for de­fense sec­ret­ary be­fore Obama tapped Hagel, last year.

The Pentagon has no suc­ces­sion plan for Carter’s po­s­i­tion.

Here is the full state­ment from De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel:

“Earli­er today, I met with Ash Carter and re­luct­antly ac­cep­ted his de­cision to step down as Deputy Sec­ret­ary of De­fense on Decem­ber 4th, after more than four and a half years of con­tinu­ous ser­vice to the De­part­ment of De­fense.

“Ash has been an ex­traordin­ar­ily loy­al and ef­fect­ive Deputy Sec­ret­ary, both for me and Sec­ret­ary Pan­etta. In his pre­vi­ous ca­pa­city as Un­der­sec­ret­ary of De­fense for Ac­quis­i­tion, Tech­no­logy and Lo­gist­ics, he provided out­stand­ing sup­port to Sec­ret­ary Gates and - most im­port­antly - to our men and wo­men fight­ing down­range. He pos­sesses an un­par­alleled know­ledge of every fa­cet of Amer­ica’s de­fense en­ter­prise, hav­ing worked dir­ectly and in­dir­ectly for el­ev­en Sec­ret­ar­ies of De­fense over the course of his stor­ied ca­reer.

“I will al­ways be grate­ful that Ash was will­ing to stay on and serve as my Deputy Sec­ret­ary. I have con­tinu­ally re­lied upon Ash to help solve the toughest chal­lenges fa­cing the De­part­ment of De­fense. I par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ate his work spear­head­ing the Stra­tegic Choices and Man­age­ment Re­view, which put the De­part­ment in a far stronger po­s­i­tion to man­age through un­pre­ced­en­ted budget un­cer­tainty. He is a bril­liant strategist and an ex­cel­lent man­ager who helped en­hance the De­part­ment’s buy­ing power, but Ash’s most re­cent tour of the De­part­ment will be es­pe­cially re­membered for his tre­mend­ous ef­forts to provide more agile and ef­fect­ive sup­port for our warfight­ers and their fam­il­ies. His com­pas­sion, love, and de­term­in­a­tion to over­come any and all bur­eau­crat­ic obstacles earned him their abid­ing re­spect and ap­pre­ci­ation.

“I am con­fid­ent that the De­part­ment, and the coun­try, will con­tin­ue to be­ne­fit from Ash Carter’s ser­vice in the months and years ahead. I am thank­ful that Ash will con­tin­ue to be at my side for the next two months, help­ing the De­part­ment of De­fense man­age through a very dis­rupt­ive and dif­fi­cult time, and en­sur­ing a smooth trans­ition with­in the of­fice of the Deputy Sec­ret­ary. The De­part­ment will miss him - I will miss him.”

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