Pentagon critic tapped to be weapons buyer
President Barack Obama has nominated Harvard professor Ashton Carter, a leading authority on arms control and a longtime academic, to serve as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, the White House announced Monday.
The choice of Carter to run the office that oversees hundreds of billions of dollars for new weapons and research — and is the focus of intense lobbying by defense firms, retired generals, and members of Congress — sparked concern within the defense industry and parts of the Pentagon bureaucracy when it was first rumored last month, the Boston Globe reported in its Tuesday editions.
But that may be exactly what Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wanted, the Globe noted.
Unlike most of his predecessors, Carter has no professional ties to America’s arms makers or manufacturing industry, nor has he spent his career in procurement, according to the report. Instead, from his perch at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Carter has been criticizing the Pentagon for buying too much armament it does not need.
Advocates told the Globe that Carter was chosen because of his combination of technical expertise and knowledge of defense strategy. He served in a senior Pentagon policy post from 1993 to 1996. But as a relative outsider, the Globe wrote, the 54-year-old Carter should be better positioned to make what Gates has said will be "difficult choices."
"He is not being brought in to help the defense industry thrive," Loren Thompson, president of the Lexington Institution think tank told the paper. "He is being brought in to decide what we need and what we can do without."