Ash Carter at podium

MITRE Mourns the Passing of Ashton B. Carter

By Denise Schiavone

As our nation’s 25th Secretary of Defense, Carter contributed his insights and judgment on behalf of our country’s national security. At MITRE, he served as a Distinguished Fellow and trustee, influencing the company’s vision for the 21st century. 

Ashton B. Carter, 25th U.S. Secretary of Defense and MITRE Distinguished Fellow since 2018, left a deep impact on our company, our mission, and our nation. As we mourn his unexpected passing, we pay tribute to his life and legacy. 

“Ash Carter was a leader who dedicated his professional life to ensuring the safety of the American people,” says Jason Providakes, president and CEO. “We at MITRE were fortunate to be the recipient of Ash’s objective guidance, as he served as a trusted adviser to our organization for over 30 years. 

“Ash was a guiding light for our efforts at MITRE and will be sorely missed, but his legacy and lasting influence will always remain. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Carter family during this difficult time.”

In addition to being one of our most prominent fellows, Carter served as MITRE trustee over two terms, from 1988 to 1992 and again from 2006 to 2008. His career in government spanned more than three decades and tenures under presidents of both political parties. 

Carter, 68, died in Boston from a heart attack on October 24. He is survived by his wife and two adult children. 

At the time of his passing, he was director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and an innovation fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

At the May 2022 opening of MITRE’s Center for Strategic Competition, Carter shared his perspective on the company’s role in meeting the challenges of the future. 

“We need to, as ever in our post-World War II history, have a close and constructive relationship between the wider technology sector outside of defense and the needs of the country,” he said. “The MITRE Corporation is a critical part of the mission of competing successfully in today’s world.”

A Life Motivated by Service

During a Q&A with Providakes in October 2020, Carter spoke more specifically to MITRE’s capacity as a connector: "We need to build bridges—and MITRE is one of those bridges."

Carter himself thrived on building bridges. According to a statement from his family, “While he was known for his keen understanding of military technology, nuclear weapons, and international affairs, Secretary Carter loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S. forces.”

Those troops directly benefitted from his successful efforts to open the armed services to transgender people, as well as to lift restrictions on females serving in combat roles. 

During the Q&A with MITRE, Carter directly addressed the motivation for service, saying, “Doing the things that matter to society as a whole—that are bigger than yourself—is the most honorable way to spend your life.”