Obama picks new defense secretary

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A senior Republican senator says President Barack Obama has chosen Ashton Carter - the former number-two ranking official at the Pentagon - as his nominee for U.S. defense secretary.

Sen. Jim Inhofe says he was informed of the decision early Tuesday. Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he supports the choice of Carter to lead the Pentagon “very strongly,” the Associated Press reported.

White House officials say no final decision has been made.

Carter, likely will be named as the next US defense secretary, CNN reported Tuesday.

Earlier, CNN reported that Obama was poised to name Carter for the position, “barring any last minute complications,” citing several unnamed administration officials.

Pentagon officials acknowledged to Agence France-Presse that Carter was on a short list of candidates for the post but could not confirm if a final decision had been taken.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced his resignation last week, with officials privately saying he was forced out after losing the confidence of the White House.

Carter, 60, has gained a reputation as an expert on hi-tech weapons and military budgets, portraying himself as a reformer intent on making the vast Pentagon bureaucracy more efficient.

While Carter is fluent with weapons programs and technological trends, he has less experience overseeing war strategy and has never served in uniform -- unlike his predecessor, Hagel, who was wounded in the Vietnam War.

An academic by training who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford, Carter worked in the Pentagon during Bill Clinton's presidency overseeing nuclear arms policies and helped with efforts to remove nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other former Soviet territories.

A former professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, Carter served as the Pentagon's top weapons buyer from 2009 to 2011 and then as deputy defense secretary until 2013.

(With agencies)