Carter “has dedicated his professional life to United States national security and teaching students about international affairs,” his family said in the statement. “He was a beloved husband, father, mentor and friend. His sudden loss will be felt by all who knew him.
President Joe Biden — who as vice president worked with Carter during the Obama administration — said in a statement on Tuesday that the former defense secretary was “a great American of the highest integrity” and “a leader on all the major national security issues of our time. Biden said he and Obama relied on Carter’s “fierce intellect and wise counsel to ensure our military’s readiness,” and that as president, he had continued to draw on Carter’s expertise through his role on the White House Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
“When I think of Ash Carter, I think of a man of extraordinary integrity. Honest. Principled. Guided by a strong and stable moral compass and a vision to use his life for public gain,” Biden said.
As the nation’s 25th Secretary of Defense, Carter notably opened all military combat positions to women and ended a ban on transgender troops serving in the military — a policy that remained in place for about a year. year before President Donald Trump reinstated the ban.
The former secretary of defense had publicly expressed his most hawkish views on the war, taking a more aggressive stance than others in the Obama administration during his campaign to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Iraq. Syria. He called for a “sustainable defeat” of the Islamic State, launching early in his term a revamped campaign against the Islamic State of the United States that ultimately succeeded in helping Iraqi forces seize and retain Islamic State strongholds.
Obama said in a statement Tuesday that he was “proud” to nominate Carter as Secretary of Defense in 2014, calling him “a staunch defender of our men and women in uniform.” The former president praised Carter for his investments in improving the military and for helping to create a program to dismantle weapons of mass destruction around the world. But he said Carter’s “greatest legacy” may be “the generations of young leaders he taught, mentored and inspired to protect our nation and wield power wisely.”
“Today we mourn the passing of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and celebrate a leader who left America – and the world – safer throughout his life of service,” Obama said. in his press release.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Carter’s passing and that the entire Defense Department “mourns the loss of an imposing intellect” and an “unwavering leader”.
“Secretary Carter was both a defense intellectual and a shrewd policymaker who tirelessly sought a safer America in a fairer world,” Austin said in a statement.
Pentagon procurement chief Bill LaPlante also released a personal statement Tuesday on Carter’s passing, calling him a “national security giant” who mentored many and “inspired us to enter public service. “.
“He worked tirelessly to keep the United States safe and his contributions will never be forgotten,” LaPlante said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Carter has served the presidents of both parties through five administrations — with his first political appointment to the Pentagon coming from President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, when he was assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs. Carter has held several other positions within the Pentagon, including Undersecretary of Defense and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics.
He was also a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Council on International Security, the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board, and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science and Technology for the fight against terrorism.
Carter began his career as a physicist, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and medieval history from Yale University in 1976. He received the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship from the University of Oxford, where he received his doctorate in physics in 1979.
Carter had a long academic career in addition to his government work. He was a professor and director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Carter joined Harvard as a professor in 2017 and became the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs – the new name for the center he previously directed at the school.
“He believed his deepest legacy would be the thousands of students he taught in the hopes that they would make the world a better and safer place,” his family said in their statement.
Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced Carter’s passing to faculty and students on Tuesday in a note commending the former Secretary of Defense for being “an important leader of the Kennedy School over the past five last years”. He described Carter’s passion for working with students and praised his contributions to the school, including helping recruit faculty and expanding the public policy and technology curriculum.
“For my part, I want to express my gratitude for his insight and wisdom, his unwavering commitment to trying to make the world a better place, his confidence that the Kennedy School can make a significant difference in the world, his generous spirit towards his students and colleagues, and his warm and gracious friendship with me,” Elmendorf said in the announcement. “I will miss him so much.”