WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2011 — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta officially welcomed the man he called his “alter ego” to the Pentagon today during a ceremony in honor of Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.
The secretary called Carter “a brilliant thinker with the creativity and discipline that you have to have in order to be able to excel in this office.”
Carter was sworn into office Oct. 6, succeeding William J. Lynn III.
Panetta said he wanted the deputy secretary to be an alter ego, “someone who can go right into your shoes and run this department; someone who has to be there when you’re not in your office, basically managing and running this institution.”
Carter said he is deeply honored that President Barack Obama asked him to be the deputy secretary during what he called a “momentous time” for national defense.
“For a decade, our department has been riveted, by necessity, on two wars ï¿½ Iraq and Afghanistan. These have not yet ended, but they will,” he said. “At this moment, we have the opportunity ï¿½ really the obligation ï¿½ to pivot this department to new challenges that will define our future.”
The United States must meet the challenges of the new world and in some areas catch up with developments in the world, Carter said. “To do this, we will need to let go of the familiar ï¿½ weapons systems, forces, institutions, habits ï¿½ and grab hold of the new,” he said.
The department must build the Joint Force 2020 that Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called for, Carter said.
But, he said, the United States must put its financial house in order, and the Defense Department will do its part. The department will get less money and the “budget turndown needs to be managed carefully to avoid the pitfalls of previous downturns,” Carter said.
Defense leaders must put forth “our most honest and carefully reasoned proposals in front of the president and Congress,” he said. “As Secretary Panetta has said, we do not need to choose between fiscal discipline and strong national defense.”
Carter will be the department’s chief management officer and look at ways to eliminate wasteful spending and efficiencies. He also will guide the department’s ongoing assessment of current and future strategic needs. This review will shape the kind of force needed for today and the future, Panetta said.
Carter served in the Pentagon in the 1980s and as the assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1996. He returned to academia working at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Boston. In 2009, Obama asked Carter to come back to Washington as the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“As a nation and as a department, the challenges we face are absolutely enormous,” Panetta said. “But we also have a great opportunity. And every challenge represents an important opportunity for the future, an opportunity to forge a better force for the future, an opportunity to modernize and strengthen our military.
“Ash’s experience, his intuition, his ability to institute change will be essential to seizing these opportunities as we move the Department of Defense into the future,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)