Ashton Carter was nominated on December 5 to replace Chuck Hagel as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Carter has worked in the Defense Department before, in Clinton Administration as well as for President Obama. Assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, Carter would bring to the Department both experience and a new set of skills to the top position.
Carter is a theoretical physicist, earning his Ph.D. in that field from Oxford. He also worked in the Fermilab and Brookhaven National Laboratories.
Now, it remains to be seen how much attention Dr. Carter might provide to the Defense Departments research and development enterprise. But in the modern history of the Defense Department (prior to World War II it was the War Department), it’s tough for me to see any other Defense Secretary being as knowledgeable about the science and technology capabilities of the American military – for good or for ill. With the recent American conflicts sometimes engaged in low-tech fighting, having a scientist focused on cutting edge research leading the charge may not be as effective.