Ashton Carter, who is scheduled to be sworn in as the next defense secretary Tuesday morning, will have an array of foreign crises to deal with, calling into question his ability to reach a breakthrough with Congress to loosen the statutory cap on defense spending.
“One thing we know for sure about Ash Carter’s tenure as defense secretary is that it will be fleeting,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “Whatever plans he may have for spurring innovation or reforming processes, the reality is that his schedule will probably be captured by bigger issues such as [the Islamic State] and Ukraine,” Thompson told Defense News.
But while it is clear Carter will have a full plate of pressing challenges, lawmakers are maintaining high expectations for his time in office.
“In the current budget and political environment, this job will not be easy,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement last week after the Senate voted to confirm Carter.
“It is my hope that Ash Carter will be able to convince Congress to do away with sequestration,” Smith said.
Separately, Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) introduced legislation last week that would lift the Budget Control Act caps on defense and non-defense spending in fiscal 2016 to accommodate the $74 billion in spending President Obama requested that exceeds the statutory limits, according to a summary of the measure. The legislation, which does not include any spending offsets, also would raise the caps in FY 2017.