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Obama Names Ashton Carter as His Next Pentagon Chief

President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Ashton Carter, his nominee for defense secretary, on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, during the announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Susan Walsh/AP
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Ashton Carter, his nominee for defense secretary, on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, during the announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Susan Walsh/AP

President Obama today officially nominated Ashton Carter to be the next secretary of defense.

With Carter standing at his side at the White House, Obama praised the expertise Carter has demonstrated in the three decades of service to the country and his exhaustive dedication to members of the U.S. Military.

"With a record of service that has spanned more than 30 years as a public servant,  as an advisor, as a scholar – Ash is rightly regarded as one our nation's foremost national security leaders."

Carter, 60, retired from the Pentagon one year ago as the deputy secretary of defense. If confirmed, he will replace his former boss and outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

"I think it is fair to say, Ash, in your one year attempt at retirement from public service you failed miserably," Obama said, drawing chuckles from the audience. "But I am deeply grateful that you are willing to go back at it."

Carter said it he was honored by the President's nomination.

"I accepted the president's offer to be nominated as secretary of defense because of my regard for his leadership," Carter said. "I accepted it because of the seriousness of the strategic challenges we face but also for the bright opportunities that exist for America if we can come together to grab hold of them."

Obama described Carter as a critical member of his team for the first five years of his presidency.

"He was at the table in the situation room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges we were confronting," Obama said. "I relied on his expertise, and I relied on his judgment."

Carter, a Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate in theoretical physics, never served in the military.

Obama described Carter as a man who will bring "a unique blend of strategic perspective and technical know-how" to the job.

"He played a key role in played a key role in devising our defense strategy" Obama said. "He is also a physicist which means he is one of the few people that actually understands how many of our defense systems work."

The United States is faced with many challenges going into the future, Obama said.

The U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ends this month, but the Pentagon will have to transition to a new mission of advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against Al Qaeda. There's also the mission to degrade and destroy extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. At the same time, America will need to strengthen alliances around the world while rebalancing its defense posture in the Asian-Pacific region, Obama said.

"And Ash is going to be critical to all of these efforts. … We are going to have to make smart choices because there are so many challenges out there," Obama said. "We are going to have to squeeze everything we have out of the resources we have in order to be effective as possible. And I can't think of somebody who is more qualified to do that."

Obama also praised Carter for his dedication to the U.S. military.

"There is one other quality of Ash's service that I think often gets overlooked and that is his true regard, his love for the men and women in uniform and their families," he said.

Carter oversaw the development of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program, an effort that sent thousands of these heavily armored behemoths to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"When our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were struggling to defend against roadside bombs, he moved heaven and Earth to rush them new body armor and vehicles," Obama said. "It's no exaggeration to say that there are countless Americans who are alive today in part because Ash's efforts."

The President also thanked Ash's wife, Stephanie, for supporting and often traveling with Ash on many Thanksgiving trips to see the troops and on visits to meet with wounded service members.

Carter told the President that "if confirmed in this job, I pledge to you my most candid, strategic advice and I pledge also that you will receive equally candid military advice."

Carter also made a pledge to the U.S. Military.

"And finally to the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, to you I pledge to keep faith with you and to serve our nation with the same unflinching dedication that you demonstrate every day."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@monster.com

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