Ashton Carter


Ashton Baldwin Carter (born September 24, 1954) is an American
public policy Public policy is an institutionalized proposal to solve relevant and real-world problems, guided by a conception and implemented by programs as a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government, in response to social issues. Be ...
professor who served as the 25th
secretary of defense A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense, which regulates the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
from February 2015 to January 2017. He is currently Director of the
Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs The Robert and Renée Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (also known as the Belfer Center) is a research center located within the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Since 2017, the center is led by Director ...
at Harvard Kennedy School. Carter began his career as a physicist. After a brief experience as an analyst for the
Office of Technology AssessmentImage:OTA seal.png, OTA seal The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was an office of the United States Congress from 1972 to 1995. OTA's purpose was to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the c ...
, he switched careers to public policy. He joined the
Kennedy School of Government The Harvard Kennedy School (also known as the John F. Kennedy School of Government and HKS) is the public policy school of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school offers master's degrees in public policy, public administration, ...
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...

Harvard University
in 1984 and became chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty. Carter served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during President Clinton's first term, from 1993 to 1996, responsible for policy regarding the former Soviet states, strategic affairs, and nuclear weapons. During President Obama's first term, he served first as
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, or USD(A&S), is the Principal Staff Assistant (PSA) and advisor to the Secretary of Defense for all matters relating to acquisition and sustainment in the Department of Defense. Th ...
and then
Deputy Secretary of Defense The deputy secretary of defense (acronym An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase, usually using individual initial letters, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or European Union, ...
until December 2013. In February 2015, he replaced
Chuck Hagel Charles Timothy Hagel ( ; born October 4, 1946) A notable act during his tenure at the Department was his end of the ban on transgender officers in the military, which remained in place for only a year before the Presidency of Donald Trump, Trump administration reinstated it. For his service to national security, Carter has on five occasions been awarded the DOD Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, Distinguished Public Service Medal. He has also received the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCS Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the Defense Intelligence Medal for his contributions to intelligence. Carter is author or co-author of 11 books and more than 100 articles on physics, technology, national security, and management.

Early life

Ashton Baldwin Carter was born on September 24, 1954, in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father is William Stanley Carter Jr., a World War II veteran, United States Navy, Navy neurologist and psychiatrist, and department chairman at Abington Memorial Hospital for 30 years. His mother is Anne Baldwin Carter, an English teacher. He has three siblings, including children's book author Cynthia DeFelice. As a child he was nicknamed Ash and Stoobie. He was raised in Abington Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Abington, Pennsylvania, on Wheatsheaf Lane. At age 11, working at his first job at a Philadelphia car wash, he was fired for "wise-mouthing the owner."


Carter was educated at Highland Elementary School (class of 1966) and at Abington Senior High School (class of 1972) in Abington. In high school he was a wrestler, lacrosse player, cross-country runner, and president of the Honor Society. He was inducted into Abington Senior High School's Hall of Fame in 1989. He attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in the spring of 1975. In 1976 Carter received a B.A. in his double-major of Physics and Medieval History from Yale College, ''summa cum laude'', Phi Beta Kappa.Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
Obama names Ashton Carter as next defense secretary
''The Times of Israel'', December 5, 2014
His senior thesis, "Quarks, Charm and the Psi Particle," was published in ''Yale Scientific'' in 1975. He was also an experimental research associate at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in 1975 (where he worked on quark research) and at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1976. Carter then became a Rhodes Scholarship, Rhodes Scholar, studying at the University of Oxford, from which he received his DPhil in theoretical physics in 1979. He was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow research associate in theoretical physics at Rockefeller University from 1979 to 1980, studying time-reversal invariance and dynamical symmetry breaking. He was then a research fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies from 1982 to 1984, during which time he wrote a public report assessing that the Reagan-proposed "Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars" initiative could not protect the US from a Soviet nuclear attack.

Academic career

Carter taught at
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...

Harvard University
, as an assistant professor from 1984 to 1986, associate professor from 1986 to 1988, professor and associate director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government from 1988 to 1990, and director of the center from 1990 to 1993. At the Kennedy School, he became chair of the International and Global Affairs faculty and Ford Foundation Professor of Science and International Affairs. He concurrently was co-director of the Preventive Defense Project of Harvard and Stanford University, Stanford Universities.

Early Department of Defense career

From 1993 to 1996, Carter served as United States Assistant Secretary of Defense, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during President Clinton's first term. He was responsible for strategic affairs, including dealing with the threat of weapons of mass destruction elsewhere in the world, nuclear weapons policy (including overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal and missile defenses), the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review, the Agreed Framework signed in 1994 which froze North Korea's plutonium-producing nuclear reactor program, the 1995 extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the negotiation of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the multibillion-dollar Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction, Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program and Project Sapphire that removed all nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus."Ashton B. Carter; Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics"
, US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations
Carter directed military planning during the Agreed Framework, 1994 crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. He was also responsible for dealing with the establishment of defense and intelligence relationships with former Soviet countries in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its nuclear arsenal, and was chairman of NATO's High Level Group. He was also responsible for the Counter proliferation Initiative, control of sensitive US exports, and negotiations that led to the deployment of Russian troops as part of the Dayton Agreement, Bosnia Peace Plan Implementation Force. From April 2009 to October 2011, Carter was Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, with responsibility for DOD's procurement reform and innovation agenda and completion of procurements such as the KC-46 tanker. He also led the development and production of thousands of mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, and other acquisitions. He instituted "Better Buying Power," seeking smarter and leaner purchasing. From October 2011 to December 2013, Carter was Deputy Secretary of Defense, serving as the DOD's chief operating officer, overseeing the department's annual budget and its three million civilian and military personnel, steering strategy and budget through sequester, and directing the reform of DOD's national security export controls. He was confirmed by Senate voice vote for both positions. In an April 4, 2013, speech, he affirmed that the 'Shift to Asia' initiative of President Obama was a priority that would not be affected by the United States budget sequestration in 2013, budget sequestration in 2013. Carter noted that ''The Shift to Asia'' is principally an economic matter with new security implications. India, Australia, and New Zealand were mentioned as forthcoming security partners. His The Pentagon, Pentagon arms-control responsibilities included matters involving the START II, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, ABM, CFE, and other arms-control treaties.

Secretary of Defense

Carter was nominated by President Obama to be the 25th United States Secretary of Defense, United States secretary of defense on December 5, 2014. In his nomination hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senate Armed Services Committee, he said he was "very much inclined" to increase U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Speaking on the Middle East, he said the U.S. must militarily ensure a "lasting defeat" of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State (ISIL) forces in Iraq and Syria. He said he is not in favor of increasing the rate of prisoner releases from Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Guantanamo Bay. He also opined that the threats posed by Iran were as serious as those posed by the ISIL forces. He was approved unanimously on February 1, 2015, by the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was confirmed by the Senate on February 12 by a vote of 93–5 and sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on February 17. In May 2015, Carter warned China to halt its rapid island-building in the South China Sea. In October 2015, Carter condemned Russian air strikes against ISIL and other rebel groups in Syria. On October 8, 2015, Carter, speaking at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, said he believed Russia would soon start paying the price for its Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, military intervention in Syria in the form of reprisal attacks and casualties. File:U.S.Defense Secretary Ash Carter places his hand over his heart as the national anthem plays during an honor cordon to welcome Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to the Pentagon, May 13, 2015 150513-D-NI589-527c.jpg, Carter with Saudi Arabia, Saudi defense minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Pentagon, May 13, 2015 A controversy arose in December 2015 when it was revealed that Carter had used a personal email account when conducting official business as Secretary of Defense. In January 2016, at Carter's direction, the Department of Defense opened all military roles to women, overriding a request by the United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps to continue to exempt women from certain positions. In June 2016, Carter announced that transgender individuals would be allowed to join and openly serve in the military.

Other roles

From 1990 to 1993, Carter was chairman of the Editorial Board of ''International Security''. Previously, he held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Office of Technology Assessment, Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and Rockefeller University. In 1997, Carter and former CIA Director John M. Deutch co-chaired the Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group which urged greater attention to terrorism. In 1998 Carter, Deutch and Philip Zelikow (later executive director of the 9/11 Commission) published an article on "catastrophic terrorism" in Foreign Affairs.Ashton B. Carter, John Deutch, and Philip Zelikow: "Catastrophic Terrorism: Tackling the New Danger", Foreign Affairs, From 1998 to 2000, he was deputy to William Perry, William J. Perry in the North Korea Policy Review and traveled with him to Pyongyang. In 2001–02, he served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, and advised on the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Carter was also co-director of the Preventive Defense Project, which designs and promotes security policies aimed at preventing the emergence of major new threats to the US. Carter had been a longtime member of the Defense Science Board and the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Defense Policy Board, the principal advisory bodies to the Secretary of Defense. During the Bush administration, he was also a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's International Security Advisory Board; co-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Policy Advisory Group; a consultant to the Defense Science Board; a member of the National Missile Defense White Team, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control. He has testified frequently before the armed services, foreign relations, and homeland security committees of both houses of Congress. In addition to his public service, Carter was a senior partner at Global Technology Partners, focused on advising investment firms in technology and defense. He has been a consultant to Goldman Sachs and Mitretek Systems on international affairs and technology matters, and speaks frequently to business and policy audiences. Carter is currently serving as an independent director on the General Electric board of directors since 2020. He was also a member of the boards of directors of the Mitre Corporation and Mitretek Systems and the advisory boards of MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Draper Laboratory. Carter was also a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Physical Society, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Carter was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was named as a Fellow in the American Physical Society (Forum on Physics & Society) in 2015. Carter also serves as an honorary director on the Board of Directors at th
Atlantic Council


Views on Iran

Carter's views on Iran–United States relations, Iran have been perceived as hawkish. In 2006, he authored a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace advocating use or threat of force to prevent Iran from obtaining Iranian nuclear program, nuclear weapons. Carter has supported diplomacy with Iran and written about methods of containing a nuclear-armed Tehran.

Support for military interventions

Carter was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as an advocate of "preventative" invasions of North Korea and Iran. In response to increase in tension in Ukraine, Carter considered proposing deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy Russian weapons. U.S. Representative Ted Lieu has criticized Obama's administration for its continued support for Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabian-led military intervention in Yemen. On 2 March 2016, he sent a letter to Carter. Lieu, who served in the U.S. Air Force, wrote in the letter that the "apparent indiscriminate airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen seem to suggest that either the coalition is grossly negligent in its targeting or is intentionally targeting innocent civilians."

Personal life

Carter is married to Stephanie (DeLeeuw) Carter. He was previously married to the current and eighth president of Bates College, Clayton Spencer, with whom he has two grown children, Ava and Will.


Carter received the Ten Outstanding Young Americans award from the United States Junior Chamber in 1987. For his service to national security, Carter has been awarded the DOD's highest civilian medal, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, five times. For critical liaison efforts with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the geographic combatant commanders, he was awarded the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 2013. He also received the Defense Intelligence Medal for his contributions to intelligence.


In addition to authoring numerous articles, scientific publications, government studies, and Congressional testimonies, Carter co-edited and co-authored 11 books: *''MX Missile Basing'' (1981) *''Ballistic Missile Defense'' (1984) *''Directed Energy Missile Defense in Space'' (1984) *''Managing Nuclear Operations'' (1987) *''Soviet Nuclear Fission: Control of the Nuclear Arsenal in a Disintegrating Soviet Union'' (1991) *''Beyond Spinoff: Military and Commercial Technologies in a Changing World'' (1992) *''A New Concept of Cooperative Security ''(1992) *''Cooperative Denuclearization: From Pledges to Deeds'' (1993) *''Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America'' (1997) *''Keeping the Edge: Managing Defense for the Future'' (2001) *''Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon'' (2019)


External links

Preventive Defense Project

expert profile at the Belfer Center of Harvard University *
Collected columns
at ''Foreign Affairs'' magazine *
Department of Defense biography
, - , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Carter, Ashton 1954 births 21st-century American physicists 21st-century American politicians American chief operating officers American Rhodes Scholars Arms control people Clinton administration personnel Council on Foreign Relations Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellows of the American Physical Society Harvard University faculty Grand Cordons of the Order of the Rising Sun John F. Kennedy School of Government faculty Living people Mitre Corporation people Obama administration personnel Obama administration cabinet members Politicians from Philadelphia United States Assistant Secretaries of Defense United States Deputy Secretaries of Defense United States Secretaries of Defense Yale College alumni