Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter will step down December 4.
Carter has served in senior Defense Department positions since the start of the Obama administration including as undersecretary of defense for acquisition technology and logistics under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates before becoming the department's number two official.
In a statement issued late today, Defense Secretary Hagel said he met with Carter this morning "and reluctantly accepted his decision to step down."
Hagel called Carter an extraordinarily loyal and effective deputy secretary who constantly provided outstanding support to service members fighting downrange. "He possesses an unparalleled knowledge of every facet of America's defense enterprise, having worked directly and indirectly for eleven secretaries of defense over the course of his storied career," Hagel said.
Hagel thanked Carter for remaining his deputy and helping him get up to speed in the department during some unusual times. "I have continually relied upon Ash to help solve the toughest challenges facing the Department of Defense," Hagel said. "I particularly appreciate his work spearheading the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which put the department in a far stronger position to manage through unprecedented budget uncertainty."
As undersecretary, Carter led DOD's efforts to accelerate the fulfillment of urgent operational needs such as the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. He worked to increase the department's buying power, and worked to strengthen America's defenses against emerging threats, such as cybersecurity.
Deputy defense secretaries generally remain in the background, but Carter had some very visible portfolios including serving as the department's point man in defense relations with India. Most recently, he headed the department's investigation into the Washington Navy Yard shooting.
Hagel called Carter a brilliant strategist and an excellent manager. "His compassion, love, and determination to overcome any and all bureaucratic obstacles earned him abiding respect and appreciation," he wrote. "I am confident that the Department, and the country, will continue to benefit from Ash Carter's service in the months and years ahead."
Carter has moved back and forth between academia and government. He earned bachelor's degrees in physics and in medieval history from Yale University, and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Before joining the Obama administration, Carter chaired the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and was Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project.
During the Clinton administration, Carter served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.
Hagel thanked Carter for remaining on the job until December. He said the time will help smooth the transition. "The department will miss him," Hagel wrote. "I will miss him."