Meet Ashton Carter, likely defense secretary nominee

As Ashton Carter emerges as President Obama’s likely nominee for defense secretary, we dug up some old interviews from the NewsHour archives. If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Carter would replace Chuck Hagel, who resigned last week.

In the past three years, the NewsHour interviewed the former deputy defense secretary several times, mostly about budget cuts imposed on defense spending.

On August 6, 2013, Ray Suarez interviewed Carter as the Pentagon pushed back against what some Pentagon officials described as “crippling budget cuts.” Carter, who led the budget review at the Pentagon, sharply criticized sequestration. Steep cuts, he argued then, could compromise training and lead to decisions that are not strategically sound.

“Staying good at countering terrorism” is a priority, he told Ray in the same interview. “This problem of terrorism, you know, al-Qaida and so forth, is something that is going to be part of our strategic future — and that’s one of the things we considered in the review — as long as there’s human society.”

Seven months earlier, in January 2012, NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Carter on a similar topic. He talked then about cutting back ground forces and weapons systems, along with possible base closings.

“National defense isn’t a partisan matter,” Carter said then about the cuts. “It’s something that touches us all. We’re just trying to be as honest and straightforward and analytical as we can, so that we make this huge adjustment, which is forced on us by the Budget Control Act, in the most sensible way, so that it has the least impact on our national defense. It’s still a dangerous world. We need a strong national defense. We’re just trying to do it all in a smart way.”

And from an interview a month after that with Judy Woodruff, he said national security was at stake:

“We ought to constantly be asking ourselves, ‘What kind of defense do we need? How much should we spend? Are we using our defense dollars wisely?’ And the answer is, not in all cases are we. And, you know, that is something that I think we need to constantly keep pressure on.”

The New York Times reported that the president may announce Carter as his choice later in the week.

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