The cold and snow that walloped Washington overnight didn't stop Ashton Carter from reporting for work Tuesday. Carter was sworn in as the 25th U.S. Secretary of Defense after starting his day with meetings at the Pentagon.
Sworn in by Vice President Biden at the White House Tuesday, Carter formally replaces Chuck Hagel, becoming President Obama's fourth defense chief in the past six years.
Carter's debut at the Pentagon this morning was briefly interrupted when his wife, Stephanie, "slipped and fell on the icy pavement," the AP reports. "She laughed it off, and officials indicated she was not injured."
In taking the Pentagon's top job, Carter rounds out a career that has included several stints with the Department of Defense, from leading the acquisitions unit to being deputy defense secretary.
NPR's John Burnett gives an overview of Carter's biography:
"Ashton Carter is 60 years old; he's a Yale graduate and was a Rhodes Scholar in theoretical physics at Oxford. He never served in the military; he was a long-time faculty member of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and he's the author or co-author of 11 books."
As Carter takes his post, he inherits a crowded list of important priorities for the Department of Defense:
- The U.S. is seeking to ramp up efforts against extremist group ISIS and continue its work with military coalitions in the Middle East
- NATO and the U.S. are watching developments in both Ukraine and Iran carefully
- The U.S. hopes to help Afghanistan prevent the Taliban from retaking hard-won territory there
- The Pentagon seeks to recoup recent budget cuts that can't easily be retracted in Washington's austere political environment
From the Military Times:
"Carter is expected to testify on Capitol Hill soon about the Defense Department's annual budget request that was released in early February. He'll be setting the stage for a big budget battle as the Pentagon seeks $534 billion for next year, significantly more than the $499 billion spending cap imposed by the law known as sequestration."