Ashton Carter, former Obama secretary of defense, dies at 68

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Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter died Monday evening after a “sudden cardiac event,” his family said. He was 68.

He served as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017.

“[Carter] devoted his professional life to the national security of the United States and teaching students about international affairs,” his family said. “He was a beloved husband, father, mentor, and friend. His sudden loss will be felt by all who knew him.”

During his time as defense secretary, Carter was behind the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He also directed the department to open all combat positions to women and created the policy that allowed transgender people to join the military and serve openly.

“While he was known for his keen understanding of military technology, nuclear weapons, and international affairs, Secretary Carter loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S forces,” his family said.

Image: Ash Carter, Ron Lewis
Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter greets U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ron Lewis in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013. Glenn Fawcett / DOD via AP

Carter served in five administrations of Democratic and Republican presidents. He held multiple positions within the Department of Defense, including Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary Defense for Acquisition Technology and Logistics, in addition to serving as Secretary.

Carter, a Rhodes scholar and theoretical physicist, had served as the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School from 2017 until his death.

“He believed that his most profound legacy would be the thousands of students he taught with the hope that they would make the world a better and safer place,” his family said.

Carter is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and his children, Ava and Will.



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