Former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter appears to be considered the favorite to replace Chuck Hagel, the outgoing Pentagon chief, according to numerous reports surfacing today.
As the new Defense Secretary, Carter would be taking charge of the U.S. operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the mission to contain the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, and the new phase of the Afghanistan war as the combat mission is expected to end next month, among other responsibilities.
Carter, 60, took the top position of the short-list of candidates to replace Hagel afterMichèle Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a former officer with the Army’s 82nd Airborne, withdrew themselves from being considered for the post.
Mr. Carter served as the Deputy Defense Secretary between October 2011 and December 2013, under both Leon Panetta and Hagel. He resigned citing personal reasons.
There were speculations that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was being considered for the post. However, CNN reports that Johnson would have complicated things for the White House, since it would have to find a replacement for him that would have to be confirmed by the incoming GOP-controlled Senate.
Bob Work, the current Deputy Defense Secretary, is also rumored to be considered as a potential replacement for Hagel.
Several anonymous U.S. administration officials told CNN that “barring any last minute complications, Ash Carter will be President Barack Obama’s choice as the new Secretary of Defense.”
This is consistent with what defense industry experts told Breitbart News. Mr. Carter, they say, is qualified and well-liked by lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
“Ashton Carter is widely known to want the job. He’s well-liked by both parties on Capitol Hill, which is a really helpful trait with the [incoming] Republican Congress,” Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Defense official and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “He is certainly qualified.”
Mr. Carter is a top-notch technocrat who knows what it is like to work in the Pentagon and has experience operating under President Obama’s methodology– Steven Bucci, who previously served as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official and is now director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, told Breitbart News.
“I think Bob Work should stay as the Deputy [Defense] Secretary and Ash Carter should take the Secretary of Defense position,” he said. “Between the two of them you’ll have two technocrat guys in those two positions who will make the Pentagon function as well as it can possibly function.”
“They’re not going to win any headlines,” Bucci added. “They’re not going to take any sort of political stand outside anything that the President would dictate and have personalities that could deal with all 350 guys and gals over at the White House telling them what to do.”
President Obama’s efforts to micromanage the Pentagon and centralize military decision making in the White House’s national security office are no secret, courtesy of revelations made by two of his former defense secretaries — Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.
They were candid in criticizing Obama for handicapping the Pentagon leader’s authority and power.
Sources from inside and outside government candidly say that Obama wants a person who will easily say yes. Someone who will conform to his ideas, no questions.
“Hagel’s apparent crime was speaking candidly about events the White House would apparently like to ignore. The President has a documented problem with listening to the advice of senior military officials,” Dan Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute think tank, told Breitbart News.
Replacing Hagel “is only going to intensify the desire of the Armed Services to tell the American people what the President does not wish them to hear,” he added.
Being the Secretary of Defense under President Obama is made difficult by the unprecedented level of micromanaging emanating from the White House, experts agreed.
“Frankly, the general opinion of trying to run the Pentagon under President Obama is that is not the easiest thing in the world to do,” said Bucci. “He allegedly runs national security policy out of the White House, not through the Pentagon. There is staff level people on the national security staff that apparently have the right to call directly to generals in combat and give them instructions.”
“Secretaries Gates and Panetta have continued to talk about, in public, the micromanaging of this White House and this National Security Council on the defense department and military decisions on a level unprecedented,” added AEI’s Eaglen.
Obama’s opposition to U.S. military involvement in in the Middle East is setting anyone who takes the job as the next Pentagon chief for failure, according to Eaglen.
“The President doesn’t want to be at war in the Middle East and everyone knows that. The next secretary has the impossible task of figuring out how to defeat the Islamic State with a president who is reluctant to do much about it,” she added. “It’s setting anyone up in the job for failure in that particular mission set.”
Mr. Carter was previously a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and is now a senior executive at the Markle Foundation. He does not have first-hand military experience.
Mr. Carter’s spokesperson did not respond to numerous requests for comment.