Press Release - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to Lead New Technology and Global Affairs Effort at Harvard Kennedy School

| Mar. 28, 2017

Carter will also serve as Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Media Contact: Katie Gibson – (617) 495-1115,; Sharon Wilke – (617) 495-9858,

Cambridge, MA – Former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter will join the Harvard Kennedy School as the Belfer Professor of Technology and Global Affairs and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. As Secretary of Defense, Carter, a physicist, became known for pushing the Pentagon to “think outside its five-sided box” in order to transform the way the military fought adversaries and strengthened alliances, managed its budget and talent, developed its technology, and more. He will now lead the Belfer Center’s programs and will focus his scholarship on the role of innovation and technology in addressing challenges at home and around the world.

To bolster this effort and the Kennedy School’s other activities in global affairs and science and technology, Robert and Renée Belfer are making a major new funding commitment through a series of gifts. In addition to establishing a new named professorship to which Carter will be appointed, their gifts will support additional financial aid for students as well as research initiatives and policy engagement by faculty members.

“I am delighted to welcome Ash Carter back to Harvard. His career has been one of great academic accomplishment and distinguished government service, most recently as Secretary of Defense,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “His knowledge, experience, and commitment to the future of public service and public policy will be of great benefit to our students and scholars and to the world well beyond our walls.”

“I look forward to leading this vital Center and helping develop the next generation of global leaders,” said Carter. “Technology has a fundamental role to play in solving some of our nation’s and other nations’ most complex problems, and I look forward to working with the Kennedy School’s world-class scholars and students to explore how innovation can advance the public good.”

“Everyone who cares about technology and global affairs has benefited tremendously from Robert and Renée Belfer’s generous support of the Kennedy School’s work,” said Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf. “By establishing a new professorship, endowing student fellowships, and reinforcing the research and policy engagement of our outstanding faculty, the Belfers are again helping us to move strongly forward. Ash Carter’s decision to become director makes me even more excited about the Belfer Center’s future.”

In his term as Secretary of Defense, Carter designed the coalition military campaign to counter ISIL, executed the Defense Department’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, established NATO’s new playbook for confronting Russia’s aggression in Europe, and launched the department’s latest cyber strategy. Carter also spearheaded revolutionary improvements in the department, including pushing new investments in technology; launching transformative ‘Force of the Future’ initiatives to change the way the department recruits, trains, and retains quality people; opening all military positions to women without exception; and establishing Pentagon outposts in Boston, Silicon Valley, and other tech hubs to reconnect the government and military with visionary private sector leaders and companies.

As the Director of the Belfer Center, Carter will succeed Graham Allison, who has served in that role since 1995 and will continue to be the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard Kennedy School. Allison is a leading scholar of U.S. national security and defense policy. He is the author of numerous influential and bestselling books, and his forthcoming book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, will be published this May.

“For more than 20 years we have supported Harvard Kennedy School and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,” said Bob Belfer. “It has been a privilege to work with Graham Allison, who has led the center to its current position as the top-ranked university-affiliated research center in the world. I’m thrilled with the arrival of Secretary Carter, who brings his extraordinary expertise in government service to lead the center to doing even more to tackle the world’s most vexing problems.”

Allison was the “Founding Dean” of the modern Kennedy School, leading the School from 1977 to 1989. During that period, a small program expanded many times over to become a major professional school with a significant impact on governments and public policy across the United States and around the world. Allison also served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans under President Bill Clinton. Twice he has been awarded the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal.

“It is impossible to overestimate Graham Allison’s vision and energy in making the Kennedy School and the Belfer Center the successful and influential organizations they are today,” said Dean Elmendorf. “We will be forever grateful for his incomparable contributions to the Belfer Center, and we look forward to his continued advice and vigorous participation in all of our activities.”

“I have been proud to lead the Belfer Center for over two decades, and I am grateful to hand the baton to my good friend Ash Carter to lead the institution we love into the future,” said Graham Allison. “I appreciate and applaud the extraordinary efforts of Bob Belfer and Doug Elmendorf that have made this happen.”

Eric Rosenbach will serve as the Belfer Center’s Co-Director and a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School. Rosenbach served as Carter’s Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, the first Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security.

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is the hub of Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in international security and diplomacy, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy. For the past four years, the Belfer Center has been named the top-ranked university-affiliated research center in the world according to the Global Go-To Think Tank Index at the University of Pennsylvania. The Belfer Center has a two-fold mission: to advance policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy, and international affairs intersect; and to prepare future generations of leaders for these arenas. The heart of the Belfer Center is its resident research community of more than 150 scholars, including Harvard faculty, researchers, practitioners, and each year a new, international group of research fellows. Through publications and policy discussions, workshops, seminars, and conferences, the Center promotes innovative solutions to significant national and international challenges.

Before becoming Secretary of Defense, Carter served in the department’s number-two and number-three roles. As Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer from 2011 to 2013, he oversaw the department’s management and personnel, and he steered its strategy and budget through the turmoil of the appropriations sequester. As Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from 2009 to 2011, Carter led the Defense Department’s procurement reform and innovation agenda, the successful completion of key procurements like the KC-46 tanker, rapid support for ongoing wars, and global logistics.

Earlier in his government career, Carter served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy from 1993 to 1996. In that position, he oversaw the Nunn-Lugar program that removed and eliminated nuclear weapons from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus; military planning during the 1994 crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program; and the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill during the Cold War, Carter was known for his work on missile defense and the then-Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as basing options for the MX Missile. Over the past three decades, Carter has served on the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board, and the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board. He also served as Professor of Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School for many years.Carter earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and in medieval history, summa cum laude, at Yale University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa; and he received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Photo Gallery: Ash Carter Announcement Reception

Ashton B. Carter Belfer Center Reception

Photo Retrospective: Ash Carter at Harvard

Ashton Carter through the Years at the Belfer Center

Watch 5 Highlights from the JFK Jr. Forum

Watch the Full JFK Jr. Forum Event

View and Download the Forum Transcript

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to Lead New Technology and Global Affairs Effort at Harvard Kennedy School.” Press Release, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 28, 2017.


Ash Carter

Graham Allison headshot

Eric Rosenbach