Ashton Carter was formally sworn in Tuesday as defense secretary, providing the former deputy defense secretary almost two years to tackle a number of thorny national security crises.
“If anyone is made for this job, if there’s a job description that fits a person, this is the guy that fits the job description,” Vice President Joe Biden said before administering the oath of office to Carter at the White House.
Carter, 60, also served as the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics under Obama. In a message to the DOD workforce, Carter laid out three priorities for his tenure:
- Helping the president make the best possible national security decisions for protecting the nation: “I have pledged to provide the president my most candid strategic advice. … I will also ensure the president receives candid professional military advice.”
- Ensuring the strength and health of DOD personnel and contractors: “I will do that by focusing on the well-being, safety, and dignity of each of you and your families. … And I pledge to make decisions about sending you into harm’s way with the greatest reflection and utmost care — because this is my highest responsibility as secretary of defense.”
- Building the force of the future: “We must steer through the turmoil of sequestration, which imposes wasteful uncertainty and risk to our nation’s defense. We must balance all parts of our defense budget so that we continue to attract the best people — people like you; so that there are enough of you to defend our interests around the world; and so that you are always well-equipped and well-trained to execute your critical mission.”
Carter also emphasized the need to make wise budget decisions. “To win support from our fellow citizens for the resources we need, we must show that we can make better use of every taxpayer dollar. That means a leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practices. It also means embracing the future — and embracing change,” he said.
Carter faces an uphill battle with multiple foreign policy and political challenges and not much time to make lasting changes.
“He doesn’t have enough money to fund his programs or his department, and we’re losing all the wars that were in… It’s really a lousy situation to be in,” Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute told Stars and Stripes. “Under these circumstances, the best he can do is keep things from getting worse than they would be otherwise.”