WASHINGTON-- Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday tapped a Marine Corps general with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan as his next chief military assistant roughly three weeks after firing his predecessor. Marine Crops Brig. Gen. Eric Smith was named Carter’s next senior military assistant, the Pentagon announced Friday afternoon. Smith has served in that role on an interim basis since mid-November when Carter abruptly fired his predecessor Army Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis amid allegations of misconduct. Smith, a Texas native who was commissioned in 1987 through the Naval ROTC program at Texas A&M University, has commanded Marines during multiple post 9/11-tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Lewis before him, Smith has previously advised Carter. The Marine one-star served as Carter’s senior military assistant in 2013 when Carter was deputy secretary of defense. It was not immediately clear if Smith would be promoted. Traditionally, senior military assistants to the secretary of defense have carried a three-star rank, including Lewis, who was promoted after assuming the role in February. A promotion to lieutenant general would require congressional consent. Lewis had been a fast-rising star among the Army’s general officers before Carter dismissed him Nov. 12. The secretary did not elaborate on the misconduct allegations against Lewis, but Carter said he’d instructed the Defense Department Inspector General to investigate. The Associate Press, citing an unnamed source, reported Lewis was accused of having an improper relationship with an adult colleague. The senior military adviser to the defense secretary is a powerful position in the Pentagon that carries substantial access to the secretary. The senior military adviser’s desk is located next to Carter’s office, travels frequently with the secretary and is trusted to provide advice on a broad range of topics from military strategy and policy to budgeting.
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