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Obama poised to pick Carter as Pentagon chief

 

President Obama appears poised to nominate former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to lead the Pentagon.

Carter has been considered among the top candidates for the job since Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelArmy taps University of Wisconsin to lead research into hybrid vehicles, aircraft While our foes deploy hypersonic weapons, Washington debates about funding Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE announced last week he was resigning, and other top candidates — including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) — have removed their names from consideration in recent days.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Carter is "on the short list" and declined to name any other candidate under consideration.

While Earnest would not confirm that Carter was the choice, he say he had served "ably" in his prior position at the Pentagon.

"He’s somebody that certainly deserves and has demonstrated strong bipartisan support for his previous service in government," Earnest said. "He is somebody that does have a detailed understanding of the way that the Department of Defense works."

Earnest went on to note that Carter had been confirmed by unanimous consent in 2011, saying it was an indication he had "succeeded in the past winning strong bipartisan support."

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Earlier Tuesday, CNN reported that Carter would be the choice, barring any last-minute complications.

White House officials declined to comment on the CNN report, although members of the administration have previously acknowledged that Carter was among the names being considered.

“We have no presidential personnel announcements at this time, and we’re not going to speculate on any decisions before the president announces one,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

Although attention has focused on Carter, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell also are thought to be in the running for the job.

But a major selling point for Carter, who was the Defense Department's No. 2 official from 2011-2013 and previously oversaw the Pentagon's sprawling procurement operation, could be early signals of support from Republican lawmakers who will be important to his nomination.

“It’d be good,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He’s always performed well; he’s not going to be as much of a political person as somebody might be.”

Inhofe said that, if Carter was nominated, “it should be an easy confirmation.”

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called Carter "a good guy" but said he hoped the next Defense Secretary would be able to stake out more independence from the White House.

“The first thing they do in the morning is call the White House, he says do something, they say, yes sir, and go do it,” McKeon said. “Regardless of the situation or what is best to do.”

White House officials said Hagel’s exit came amid concern he was not best equipped to lead the Pentagon's efforts to combat the rising threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But Hagel also reportedly struggled to break into the president's inner circle, and multiple reports suggested simmering tension between the Pentagon and the president’s national security staff.

— Kristina Wong and Martin Matishak contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:50 p.m.