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February 10, 2015

Senate panel advances Carter for defense secretary

Philly native likely next defense secretary

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-0 on Tuesday to back Ashton Carter as President Barack Obama's next Secretary of Defense, paving the way for what is expected to be an easy confirmation in the full Senate as soon as Wednesday.

 The 26-member panel voted 25-0, with one member not voting.

 Carter, 60, a Philadelphia native and 1972 graduate of Abington High School in Montgomery County, as well as a former Pentagon No. 2 seen as a technocrat, was nominated to be Obama's fourth defense secretary after Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure last year.

Although many Senate Republicans are sharply critical of Obama's defense policies, Carter's confirmation has gone far more smoothly than Hagel's two years ago.

 Carter served as deputy defense secretary, the Pentagon's number two position, from 2011 to 2013. He was also the Defense Department's chief weapons buyers from 2009-11 when he led a major restructuring of the F-35 fighter jet program.

 At his confirmation hearing on Feb. 4, Carter underscored his determination to boost the U.S. defense budget, drive down the cost of new weapons and make sure new technologies are delivered to troops more quickly.

He also told lawmakers he was leaning in favor of providing arms to Ukraine but later cautioned that the focus of the international community's efforts to handle the crisis must remain on pressuring Russia economically and politically.