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Ashton Carter

66 - Ashton Carter
2012 Rank: 8

Former Deputy Defense Secretary


He may no longer be the deputy defense secretary, but he remains close to Obama and is widely regarded as a Cabinet secretary-in-waiting for this or any other Democratic administration. Until his departure this month, Carter ran the day-to-day at the Pentagon for secretaries Chuck Hagel (No. 3) and Leon Panetta. It was his second stint in the building; the first during the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, and in the Obama administration as acquisition chief, then deputy secretary. This year, he spearheaded a major Pentagon budget and strategy review, budget-cutting efforts as well as working to improve ties with India. A no-nonsense and demanding manager, Carter was among those considered to succeed Panetta, but after Obama tapped Hagel the president asked Carter to stay on through the end of the year. He’s also been on the short list to become the next energy secretary. A former Harvard Kennedy School professor — with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar — hasn’t announced his post-government plans, but returning to academia wouldn’t come as a surprise. Nor would returning to government.

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