Former Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to attend the ceremony
President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Ashton Carter as his next Secretary of Defense Friday, to replace current Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, who resigned last month under pressure from the White House.
Obama praised Carter, the former Pentagon No. 2 under Hagel and a respected technocrat, in a small Roosevelt Room ceremony, before an audience of administration officials and selected lawmakers, saying Carter “brings a unique blend of strategic perspective and technical knowhow.”
“With a record of service that has spanned more than 30 years as a public servant, as an adviser, as a scholar, Ash is rightly regarded as one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders,” Obama said.
In a brief statement, Carter thanked Obama for the nomination and promised to provide candid advice and to ensure that military commanders can do the same. “If confirmed, I pledge to you my most candid, strategic advice, and I pledge to you you will receive equally candid military advice,” he said.
In an awkward turn, Hagel, who was scheduled to attend the announcement, backed out of the ceremony Friday morning, leaving Obama to quote Hagel’s praise of Carter from a year ago when he resigned as Deputy Secretary.
“Secretary Hagel will not attend today’s ceremony at the White House,” a defense official said in a statement. “The Secretary believes strongly that this day belongs to Ash Carter and his nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense … The Secretary is proud of Ash and of their friendship and does not want in any way to detract from or distract the proper focus of the day.”
Obama closed with a call on the Senate to swiftly confirm Carter to the post.