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[WASHINGTON] The former number-two ranking official at the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, will likely be named as the next US defence secretary, American media reported Tuesday.
President Barack Obama was poised to nominate Mr Carter to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, "barring any last minute complications," CNN reported.
CNN cited several unnamed administration officials and The Washington Post also reported Mr Obama would nominate Mr Carter.
Pentagon officials acknowledged to AFP that Mr Carter was on a shortlist of candidates for the post but could not confirm if a final decision had been taken.
Mr Hagel, the outgoing Pentagon chief, announced his resignation last week, with officials privately saying he was forced out after losing the confidence of the White House.
Mr Carter, 60, has gained a reputation as an expert on hi-tech weapons and military budgets, portraying himself as a reformer intent on making the vast Pentagon bureaucracy more efficient.
While Mr Carter is fluent with weapons programmes and technological trends, he has less experience overseeing war strategy and has never served in uniform - unlike his predecessor, Mr Hagel, who was wounded in the Vietnam War.
An academic by training who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford, Mr Carter worked in the Pentagon during Bill Clinton's presidency overseeing nuclear arms policies and helped with efforts to remove nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other former Soviet territories.
A former professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, Carter served as the Pentagon's top weapons buyer from 2009 to 2011 and then as deputy defence secretary until 2013.
When Mr Carter stepped down last year, officials denied reports that he had clashed with Mr Hagel.
Although he has served under two Democratic presidents, Mr Carter is not a heavily partisan figure and the US Senate would likely endorse his nomination, analysts say.
Mr Carter would be a "great" choice, said Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"He is very highly qualified," he said.
He added it was possible lawmakers could expedite a nomination for the Pentagon job in the next few weeks before a newly-elected Republican majority takes over the Senate in the new year.