Former U.S. Defense Secretary Heading to Delta’s Boardroom

His appointment is one of many recent military, governmental and political leaders turned director

By Barbara Wenger

With the appointment of Ashton B. Carter, U.S. Secretary for Defense from 2015 to 2017, to the Delta Air Lines’ Board of Directors Oct. 24, the trickle of U.S. government and U.S. military to the public boardroom has become a stream.

Carter’s government service includes serving directly and indirectly under 11 Secretaries of Defense in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“He’s also a physicist, which means that he’s one of the few people who actually understands how many of our defense systems work,” said President Barack Obama of Carter during his 2015 nomination announcement.

From 2011 to 2013, he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, functioning as the department’ s chief operating officer; as Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Technology and Logistics from 2009 to 2011; and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy from 1993 to 1996.

In a farewell address to State Department employees earlier this year, he said:

“Over the course of three and a half decades of walks, I’ve seen how this department has changed in many ways. When I started my career in defense … most technology of consequence originated in America, and much of that was sponsored by government, especially the Department of Defense. We’ve had to make sure that we stay ahead and stay the best.”

Now he’s bringing that drive to Delta's boardroom. “I am very pleased to be joining a special kind of enterprise that combines excellent technology and people in complex global operations,” he said about his appointment. Delta’s non-executive chairman of the board Frank Blake, added that, “Ash’s distinguished career in government service and expertise in global affairs, science and technology will be invaluable to Delta.”

Secretary Carter is currently director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.  He is also an Innovation Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He previously served as a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a senior executive at the Markle Foundation, helping its Economic Future Initiative.

Here’s a roundup of some others who left government and headed to directorships since the spring:

·       Deborah Lee James, the 23rd Secretary of the U.S. Air Force from 2013 until her retirement in 2017, was named to the Unisys Corp. Board;

·       New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte joined Caterpillar, Inc;

·       Richard H. Ledgett, Deputy Director at the National Security Agency (NSA) joined M&T Bank Corp;

·       Robert O. Work, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2014 through mid-2017, joined Raytheon Co;

·       Lt. General Wendy M. Masiello, retired in mid-2017 after a 30-plus year career, and joined KBR Inc;

·       Lisa S. Disbrow, Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force retiring in mid-2017, has joined Mercury Systems Inc.

Add new comment

1 + 4 =