Ashton “Ash” Carter, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense towards the end of the Obama administration, has died Monday evening after suffering a “sudden cardiac event.”
“It is with deep and profound sadness that the family of former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter shares that Secretary Carter passed away Monday evening in Boston after a sudden cardiac event at the age of 68,” Carter’s family said in a statement Tuesday.
Trained as a physicist, Carter joined the Obama administration at the outset as deputy secretary of defense before he was appointed to lead the Pentagon in 2015, following the resignation of his predecessor, Chuck Hagel. His tenure saw a Chinese military build-up that challenged the status quo in the Western Pacific, a return of American military forces to Iraq to wage war on the ISIS terrorist group, and a deterioration in relations with Moscow in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war.
Carter also pushed for closer ties between his department and high-tech firms in what is known as the “Third Offset Strategy.” The idea was that the American military, whose conventional advantage over its Russian and Chinese counterparts is diminishing, must be able to identify the next generation of concepts and capabilities in order to secure a technological superiority in the coming decades.
President Joe Biden, who was vice president when Carter headed the Pentagon, said he and Obama “relied on Ash’s fierce intellect and wise counsel to ensure our military’s readiness, technological edge, and obligation” to the troops.
“Ash was a leader on all the major national security issues of our times—from nuclear deterrence to proliferation prevention to missile defense to emerging technology challenges to the fight against Al Qaida [sic] and ISIS,” Biden said in a statement. “He opened every field of military service to women and protected the rights of transgender service members.”
Prior to his death, Carter served as director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which focuses on “international security and diplomacy, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.”
“For over 35 years inside government under presidents of both political parties as well as in the private sector, Carter leveraged his extraordinary experience in national security, technology, and innovation to defend the United States and make a better world,” the center said in a statement commemorating Carter.
Carter is survived by his wife Stephanie and two grown children, Ava and Will.