Carter is the chairman of the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He served as assistant secretary of defense for International Security Policy from 1993 to 1996.
If confirmed to the post held by John Young since 2007, Carter would oversee a sweeping defense acquisition reform effort.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has called overhauling the way the department buys goods and services and manages taxpayer dollars one of the biggest challenges it faces.
“A risk-averse culture, a litigious process, parochial interests, excessive and changing requirements, budget churn and instability and sometimes adversarial relationships” within the department and other parts of government have made acquisition reform a priority, Gates said last month during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
If confirmed as undersecretary, Carter would be the point man in the difficult procurement decisions Gates told the senators would begin with Obama’s fiscal 2010 defense budget request.
“One thing we have known for many months is that the spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing,” Gates said at the hearing. “Two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department.”
Carter, who has a doctorate in physics, directed military planning during the 1994 crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to a statement released by the White House. He was instrumental in removing all nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and he directed the establishment of defense and intelligence relationships with former Soviet nations at the end of the Cold War.
He also participated in negotiations that led to the deployment of Russian troops as part of the Bosnia Peace Plan Implementation Force.
Carter managed the Cooperative Threat Reduction program aimed at eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of the former Soviet Union, and he directed the Nuclear Posture Review and oversaw the Defense Department’s Counterproliferation Initiative. He also directed the reform of the department’s national security export controls.
In 1997, Carter co-chaired the Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group with former CIA Director John M. Deutch, urging greater attention to the terrorist threat. From 1998 to 2000, he was deputy to former Defense Secretary William J. Perry in the North Korea Policy Review, and traveled with Perry to Pyongyang. From 2001 to 2002, he served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism and advised on the creation of the Homeland Security Department.
Carter is a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the department’s highest award. In addition to his current position at the Kennedy School, Carter is co-director of the Preventive Defense Project, serving along with Perry. The project is a research collaboration between Harvard and Stanford universities.