Friday, December 5, 2014

Academic hawk Ashton Carter Obama's likely choice for new defense secretary

Ashton Carter is now widely seen as Obama's choice for defense secretary after Obama's reportedly more favored candidate Jeh Johnson of Homeland Security and others indicated they were not interested in the position.



Carter has plenty of experience in government, the private sector, as well as academia. Although a Democrat, he was active during the Bush era: During the Bush administration, he was also a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's International Security Advisory Board, co-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Policy Advisory Group, a consultant to the Defense Science Board, a member of the National Missile Defense White Team, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control. Carter was responsible for oversight of a number of very expensive weapons development projects that included the F-35. Although many claim he was quite active in attempting to cut costs, others note that there were still questionable weapons programs on Ashton's watch.
 In response to Ashton's constant criticisms of defense spending reductions caused by the sequester conditions, Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress said: "Carter grossly exaggerates the reduction to the level of defense spending caused by the budget control act. Sequestration resulted in part from the inefficient and unsound choices the Pentagon has made over the past decade, much of it occurring on Carter's own watch,"
Ashton strongly supports a policy of pre-emptive military action. In 2006 he suggested that the Bush administration should attack North Korea before it developed an intercontinental ballistic missile. He is very much concerned with the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD's. He even wanted the war on terror to be renamed as a war on WMDs. Ashton argued that the Iraq war was justified because at the time the administration thought that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He is also hawkish on Iran and favors military action if diplomacy does not work. He would not even allow a civilian Iranian program which he claims would still be a threat to the region.
On the other hand, Ashton is all for the US modernizing its nuclear weapons and there are plans for huge expenditures in the area. Joe Cirincione of Project Ploughsares notes that Ashton will be in a tough spot: “He inherits plans for spending $1 trillion on new nuclear weapons over the next 30 years but not the money to pay for them. He doesn't want to cut the contracts, but he can't afford them either."
Given his hawkish stance and promotion of defense spending Ashton appeals to many Republicans including John McCain, who will be next chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain told Bloomberg that Carter and he had similar ideas on several different issues saying of Carter: “Working together, if you are not having to fight the Pentagon, if you’ve got the leader actively working towards the same goal, that’s immensely helpful."
 Ashton is a typical representative of the revolving door that sees senior government officials go into the corporate world and then back again. In Ashton's case the door led back into academia as well: In between his government appointments, he has served as the chairman of the Harvard Kennedy School's global affairs faculty and as co-chair of its Preventative Defense Project. Carter also has extensive experience in the corporate world, having served as a senior partner at Global Technology Partners, a member of the board of trustees for the MITRE Corporation, and an adviser to Goldman Sachs.[24] He also serves on the the Advisory Boards of MIT's Lincoln Laboratories and the Draper Laboratory. As of September 2014, Carter was serving as a senior executive director at the Markle Foundation. Carter's work at Markle is focused on "advancing transformative strategies that use technology and globalization to help all Americans flourish in the economy of a networked world." These connections serve to link corporate profit, academia, and government policy.

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