Updated Oct 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obama Defense Secretary Ash Carter dies at 68

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds a news conference at the Pentagon in 2017.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds a news conference at the Pentagon in 2017. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter died Monday after suffering a heart attack, the dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government said in a statement. He was 68.

The big picture: Carter, who served as defense secretary under former President Barack Obama, was involved in national security, technology and innovation — both from within government and in academia for more than three decades.

  • As defense secretary from 2015 to 2017, he oversaw the military campaign against ISIL, launched a renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific region, created a new cyber strategy and established a stronger NATO response to Russia, per Harvard University's Douglas W. Elmendorf.
  • He was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the department’s highest civilian honor, five times, per Harvard.
  • After leaving public service, Carter led the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School.

What they're saying: "A keen student of history, a brilliant physicist, and a steadfast defender of our men and women in uniform, Ash served presidents of both parties with distinction," Obama said in a statement.

  • "As president, I relied on Ash's strategic counsel as we invested in innovation and a stronger, smarter, more humane and more effective military for the long term."
  • "Ash's greatest legacy, however, may be the generations of younger leaders he taught, mentored, and inspired to protect our nation and wield power wisely," Obama said.
  • "When I think of Ash Carter, I think of a man of extraordinary integrity. Honest. Principled," President Biden said in a statement.
  • "Above all, Ash understood the sacred obligation we have to our servicemembers, veterans, and their families," Biden said.
  • "On many weekends Ash and his beloved wife Stephanie would quietly visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed. He did so out of the spotlight, demonstrating the personal integrity and sense of duty that distinguished him throughout his life."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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