Ex-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Dies After ‘Sudden Cardiac Event’

Ashton Carter, former U.S. secretary of defense, speaks during the New Work Summit in Half
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has died unexpectedly, according to a family announcement released Tuesday morning. He was 68.

A “sudden cardiac event” the evening before in Boston was listed as cause of death.

Carter served as secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama from February 2015 to January 2017.

During Obama’s first term, he served first as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and then Deputy Secretary of Defense until December 2013.

In February 2015, he replaced Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense and served until the Obama administration came to an end.

File/Ashton Carter, former U.S. secretary of defense, looks on during a panel session on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. ( Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty)

File/U.S. President Barack Obama stands alongside U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (R), Vice President Joe Biden (2nd L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, Jr. (L), during the Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony for Obama at Joint Base Myers-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, January 4, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

AP reports a key moment for Carter in the position came when he ended the ban on transgender troops serving in the U.S. military, saying it was the right thing to do.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” Carter said in June 2016, laying out a one-year plan to implement the change. “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”

For his service to national security, Carter on five occasions was awarded the DOD Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Carter, a Philadelphia native, “loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S. forces with his wife Stephanie,” his family said in a statement. “Carter always set politics aside; he served presidents of both parties over five administrations.”

Read the full family statement below:

It is with deep and profound sadness that the family of former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter shares that Secretary Carter passed away Monday evening in Boston after a sudden cardiac event at the age of 68. Carter, the 25th Secretary of Defense and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School, devoted his professional life to the national security of the United States and teaching students about international affairs. He was a beloved husband, father, mentor, and friend. His sudden loss will be felt by all who knew him.

President Obama nominated Ash Carter to serve as Secretary of Defense in December 2014. As Secretary, he launched the successful campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, opened all combat positions to women, and forged new connections between the Department of Defense and the nation’s technology community. While he was known for his keen understanding of military technology, nuclear weapons, and international affairs, Secretary Carter loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S forces [with his wife Stephanie.] Carter always set politics aside; he served presidents of both parties over five administrations, holding multiple positions within the Department of Defense, including Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary Defense for Acquisition Technology and Logistics, in addition to serving as Secretary.

As Director of the Belfer Center since 2017, Secretary Carter continued to teach and share his experience and knowledge with Harvard students. A Rhodes Scholar and theoretical physicist, Secretary Carter loved academia, teaching, and mentoring students. He believed that his most profound legacy would be the thousands of students he taught with the hope that they would make the world a better and safer place.

He is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and his children, Ava and Will.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

More to come…

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