Washington, Dec 3: Ashton Carter, former second in command at the Pentagon, credited with enhancing defence ties with India, is said to be President Barack Obama's choice to replace Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was ousted last week.
Carter, who led an effort to loosen technology-transfer restrictions that had stymied sales of US weapons to India, emerged as the front runner after a number of candidates withdrew from consideration. These included Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, Michèle A. Flournoy, a former Pentagon under secretary and Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security.
Obama is expected to announce the elevation of Carter, a physicist and the Pentagon's former chief weapons buyer, in the next few days after the White House completes his vetting, according to various media reports.
To cut bureaucratic red tape, Carter and then Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon were named point persons to lead India-US Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) envisaging technology transfer and co-production and co-development of defence equipment.
With the DTTI regaining momentum after the Indian elections, the US is reported to have set aside $20 million for strategic cooperative science and technology projects with India,
Carter was twice passed over for the top job and has served as Pentagon's chief operating officer from Oct 2011 to Dec 2013 under both Leon Panetta and Hagel.
A Yale University graduate with degrees in physics and in medieval history and a Rhodes Scholar, he served as under secretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics from April 2009 to Oct 2011.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest Tuesday declined to confirm that Carter was Obama's pick but praised him as someone who had "served the president and the American people well" at the Pentagon.
"He is somebody who deserves and has demonstrated strong bipartisan support for his previous service in government," Earnest said. "He has a detailed understanding of the way the Department of Defence works."