As Ashton Carter steps down today as the deputy defense secretary, President Barack Obama announced his replacement, Christine Fox.
Carter made his formal goodbyes yesterday during a ceremony at the Pentagon, where he was praised by uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders alike.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey called Carter “the most important, least known figure in Washington,” according to Defense.gov and Politico.
“He became known as the superhero of sequestration,” Dempsey said. “We did respect his willingness to put skin in the game, to be personally invested and to think big when many around him were thinking small.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Carter was a model public servant whose work had benefited the entire department.
“Throughout his career, Ash Carter has shown again and again that he can translate his high ideals into better, more efficient, more effective ways of doing business for our department, for our people and for our country,” Hagel said.
Carter announced his retirement in October, leaving DoD after serving for 4 1/2 years as both the Pentagon’s No. 2 and chief weapons buyer. He previously served as an assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration and a few key defense-related policy board. Over the course of his career, he worked directly or indirectly with 11 secretaries of defense.
In recognition of Carter’s long public service, Hagel presented him with the highest civilian award he could bestow ‐ the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service with a gold palm.
After thanking his well-wishers, Carter criticized the political dysfunction that had gridlocked the government in recent years.
“It’s unsafe, because it affects the readiness of the forces that would respond to contingencies,” he said. “It’s dispiriting to and unworthy of the patriots — military and civilian — who serve this government. But most seriously, it embarrasses us in front of friends and allies — and also potential opponents.”
President Obama accepted Hagel’s nomination of Fox to succeed Carter as acting deputy secretary of defense.
“Christine, who until recently served as the department’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, is a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager,” Hagel said in a statement. “As a key leader of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, she helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty. She will be able to help me shape our priorities from day one because she knows the intricacies of the department’s budget, programs and global operations better than anyone.”