Ashton Carter will be nominated by President Barack Obama this morning and will almost certainly be confirmed by the Senate. But he will face a very full plate on a job with only two years to do it.
Among the many missions Carter will have to embark on:
* Managing a White House that has churned through previous defense secretaries. * Managing the continuing budget squeeze and Congress. Previous secretaries could at least hope that the sequester for defense would be lifted, but there's not much expectation at this point of that happening. And Congress has thwarted efforts of previous secretaries to consolidate and kill off programs and weapon systems.
* Negotiating a new authorization to use military force and strategy to defeat ISIL. The president has said he wants Congress to pass one but doesn't need one. Carter can expect to be asked by senators his views at length. The AUMF is one thing; finding a strategy that will actually "destroy" the group also known as the Islamic State or ISIS is another.
The White House has had a hard time articulating how it will manage to destroy ISIL in Syria with the help of more moderate rebel groups — and no U.S. ground troops — while at the same time continuing its policy of demanding a change in the Assad regime.
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