Mattis Dedicates Former Defense Secretary Carter’s Official Portrait

The official portrait of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter joins a gallery of other former secretaries today in the Secretary of Defense Corridor on the E Ring, following a Pentagon ceremony in which Defense Secretary James N. Mattis unveiled the painting.

Speaking to an auditorium filled with attendees ranging from Defense Department employees to dignitaries, Mattis remembered Carter’s lifetime of service in his remarks.

“Mr. Secretary — Ash — welcome back, welcome home,” the secretary told him.

“Over a period of 35 years, here is a man who served both parties … and 11 secretaries of defense,” Mattis said. “We’re touched by the unselfish performance of this leader. We honor your service today, Ash, as our secretary, but we keep in mind how you placed your country’s security first long before destiny tapped you on the shoulder to be our secretary.”

Mattis said Carter joins a long line of academics-turned-guardians of the nation’s democracy, and each of them in their own unique way served to the same end: to frustrate America’s adversaries and defend the U.S. experiment in democracy.

Scholar, Statesman

Carter is a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in theoretical physics. “But it’s the measure of the man that, having mastered the most rigorous of sciences, Ash Carter placed his razor-sharp mind at the service of his country and [began] the process of becoming the scholar-statesman we honor here today,” he said.

Before becoming the 25th defense secretary in 2015, Carter served the Pentagon in several roles, including as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy from 1993-96, as undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics from 2009-11, and as deputy defense secretary from 2011-13.

“You came into office facing a grave challenge in the Middle East as a barbarian caliphate sought to impose its brutality and butchery upon millions,” Mattis said of Carter’s time as defense secretary. “Under your leadership, America’s military summoned the strength to answer the challenge. At the same time, your tenure was marked by a time of new approaches in technology, space and cyberspace.”

Legacy Lives On

The secretary assured Carter that DoD still bears the “indelible imprint” of his legacy, in which counterproliferation is a priority. Additionally, the former secretary’s establishment of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental in Silicon Valley, a DoD organization focused on accelerating commercial technologies to the U.S. military, will live on and it will prosper, Mattis added.

“As our National Defense Strategy emphasizes today, America must expand the competitive space, and you had identified Silicon Valley as one of America’s reservoirs of strength in cyberspace — one area where we will do that; for we must not be dominant and at the same time irrelevant — we will expand the competitive space there,” he said. “And the same goes for every competitive domain of warfare doors that you opened, which I will continue to walk through. And your impact directly benefitted me as a result, so I want to say thank you publicly.”

Mattis said people will look at Carter’s portrait and realize, once again, that when times are at their worst, America can still put forth committed public servants at their best.

Leaders Defending Liberty

“It’s a reminder that no matter how tough the times, our free society will always provide the leaders necessary to defend the blessings of liberty in their time and for the future generations to whom we owe the same freedoms that you and I enjoy today,” he said.

“Secretary Carter, you were one of those who carried this leadership mantle,” Mattis said. “Thank you for your leadership in a time of peril.”

Mattis asked Carter to join him at the portrait displayed on stage, where the two secretaries unveiled it to audience applause.

Carter said he was glad his portrait would join the company of prior defense secretaries, “because I believe that this nation, through all those years, has been blessed with great secretaries of defense, and that continues to this day.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)