Ashton Carter was sworn in on Tuesday as secretary of defense by Vice President Biden. Carter was confirmed by the Senate in a 93-5 vote to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Earlier on Feb. 11, senators from both sides of the aisle praised Carter, 60, a physicist and longtime Department of Defense official who served as deputy secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013, pledging their support for his confirmation prior to a full Senate vote that afternoon.
“I think Dr. Carter will be a good secretary of defense who will always keep faith with our men and women in uniform and work tirelessly on their behalf and that of our national security,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), speaking on the floor of the Senate. “I’m hopeful about the prospects of working together with Dr. Carter along with my colleagues in the Senate Armed Services, on both sides of the aisle, to achieve our shared priorities; especially the reform of our defense acquisition system, the modernization of our military compensation system, and the repeal of sequestration.
“Dr. Carter is a worthy choice for secretary of defense. He has the experience, knowledge, and skill to succeed,” he added.
At the same time, McCain criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policy record and said that he had little confidence that the president would refrain from interfering in the DOD’s work as previous defense secretaries in the Obama administration complained about.
McCain’s praise was echoed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the committee’s ranking member.
“Dr. Carter is uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Defense at a time, when, as Henry Kissinger recently said in a hearing before the Armed Services Committee, ‘The United States has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crisis since the end of the Second World War,’ ” said Reed. “Every decision that Dr. Carter makes, I know he will make it thinking finally and ultimately about what is in the best interests of these men and women in uniform and [civilians within the] Department of Defense who give so much to this country every day…. I believe he is the right leader at the right time for the Department of Defense and I urge my colleagues to support his confirmation.”
Other senators who spoke on Carter’s behalf throughout the day noted how quickly and amicably his nomination got to its final stage, in stark contrast to the fight before the confirmation of Carter’s predecessor two years ago.
Hagel was vehemently opposed by McCain and a majority of the Republicans who successfully filibustered his first Senate confirmation vote after he narrowly cleared the Armed Services Committee by a vote of 14-11. The Senate finally confirmed Hagel by a vote of 58-41 almost a month after his committee hearing.
While Hagel’s nomination was also opposed by a number of pro-Israel organizations, Carter’s nomination was praised by both right- and left-leaning groups.