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Obama nominates Ashton Carter for defense secretary

On Friday, Obama described Carter as “one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders."

President Barack Obama officially nominated former senior Pentagon official Ashton Carter on Friday morning to replace Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary.

Flanked by both Carter and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, Obama described Carter as “one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders” who “knows the Defense Department inside and out.” He also pointed out that Carter — a Rhodes scholar, physicist and former Harvard professor — has served under both Democratic and Republican defense secretaries and is “trusted on both sides of the aisle.”

Indeed, Carter has already earned  support of several top Republicans, including Sens. Jim Inhofe and John McCain and is expected to be confirmed by the Senate early next year.

Carter served as deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013. Most recently, he was as a senior executive at the Markle Foundation, an organization that focuses on technology, health care and national security. He is also a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University.

Obama joked that Carter's "failed miserably" in his "one-year attempt at retirement from public service."

Carter delivered brief remarks, saying he was honored to be nominated. If confirmed, Carter promised his “most candid strategic advice.” To the armed forces, he pledged "unflinching dedication you demonstrate every day." 

If Carter, 60, is confirmed, he will become Obama’s fourth defense secretary during the president's time in office. Obama’s nomination comes less than two weeks after Hagel announced he was stepping down, reportedly after the White House lost confidence in Hagel less than two years after his appointment. 

Other candidates, besides Carter, who were named as possible replacements included Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Obama said Carter is equipped to confront a number of challenges the U.S. faces, including going after remnants of Al-Qaeda, destroying the terrorist group known as ISIS, fighting Ebola, and strengthening the U.S.  alliances in NATO, and rebalancing the country’s defense posture in the Asia-Pacific.

Indeed, the nomination comes as approximately 2,900 U.S. troops are in West Africa helping to fight Ebola. In Afghanistan, where the NATO combat mission is ending Dec. 31, about 9,800 American troops will remain in the country to focus on counter-terrorism missions and training Afghan security forces. And last month, Obama announced he was sending as many as 1,500 more soldiers to Iraq to train local forces there to fight ISIS. That deployment would bring the total number of American troops in Iraq to 2,900.

Hagel was not at the at announcement ceremony.