MIB: Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense

This week, we speak with former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who is a five-time recipient of the DOD Distinguished Public Service Medal, plus the CJCS Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the Defense Intelligence Medal for his contributions to intelligence. He was worked with every U.S. President from Reagan to Obama. Carter is author of 11 books, most recently, Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon.

His plan was to spend “just one year” at the Pentagon, working on a project involving satellite reconnaissance. That turned into a full career, where he applied his background in Theoretical Physics + Medieval History. That unique combination allowed him to understand how to maneuver through the labyrinth system of the Pentagon bureaucracy. He created processes to improve the efficiency of the purchasing-system, including incentives and penalties for major weapons manufacturers. He also discusses how he brought in talent from Silicon Valley into the Pentagon to beef up their technological capabilities.

Carter explains why he always wore a suit and tie when he was meeting US troops in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He discusses why the F-35 Lightning II (aka Joint Strike Fighter) might be the last manned fighter plane the US military uses. The future of warfare will look very different than the past — drones, robots, electronics, technology will be the key drivers of future conflicts. The only exception is the nuclear deterrent, which is likely to persist for many decades into the future. He feared that his contingency strategy for a strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities in the 1990s was going to be implemented by President Clinton; while he was confident the US would destroy North Korea’s nuclear facilities, the resulting conventional war would leave millions dead on the Korean Peninsula.

Carter describes what he was doing on 9/11, and his subsequent role in coordinating US Intelligence and why he opposed creating a separate bureaucracy of Homeland Security, and preferred instead a coordinated Intelligence, Defense and Law Enforcement standing joint operation.

His books can be seen here; A transcript of our conversation will be available here.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Next week, we speak with Ilana Weinstein, founder and CEO of The IDW Group, a leading consulting & hiring boutique for hedge funds, private equity and family offices in search of top investment talent.




Ash Carter’s Authored Books

Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon by Ash Carter


Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America by Ash Carter and William Perry

Ballistic Missile Defense by Ash Carter and David Schwartz

Managing Nuclear Operations by Ash Carter

Directed energy missile defense in space by Ash Carter

Keeping the Edge: Managing Defense for the Future by Ash Carter and John White

Soviet Nuclear Fission: Control of the Nuclear Arsenal in a Disintegrating Soviet Union by Kurt Campbell, Ash Carter, Steven Miller, and Charles Zraket

A New Concept of Cooperative Security by Ash Carter, William Perry, and John Steinbruner



Books Barry Mentioned
A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age by William Manchester

The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy by Michael Lewis

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