Ashton Carter stepping down as deputy defense secretary

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Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 4, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that he met with Mr. Carter and reluctantly accepted his decision to step down after more than 4½ years of continuous service to the Defense Department.

“Ash has been an extraordinarily loyal and effective deputy secretary, both for me and Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta,” Mr. Hagel said. “I will always be grateful that Ash was willing to stay on and serve as my deputy secretary. I have continually relied upon Ash to help solve the toughest challenges facing the Department of Defense.”

The announcement came as a surprise to most Pentagon watchers.

However, Foreign Policy magazine reported in August that Mr. Carter and Mr. Hagel were an uncomfortable match. Mr. Carter was under consideration for defense secretary after Mr. Panetta stepped down.

Mr. Hagel noted Mr. Carter’s long career at the Defense Department, saying he appreciated his work on the recent budget review and in his previous positions as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“I am confident that the department, and the country, will continue to benefit from Ash Carter’s service in the months and years ahead,” the defense secretary said. “I am thankful that Ash will continue to be at my side for the next two months, helping the Department of Defense manage through a very disruptive and difficult time, and ensuring a smooth transition within the office of the deputy secretary. The Department will miss him. I will miss him.”

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