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Ashton Carter, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Defense Secretary, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday in a mostly congenial nomination hearing that touched on procurement, policy, sequestration, and providing candid advice to the White House. Carter, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013 and was the Pentagon’s acquisition chief before that, promised the committee he would provide “candid strategic advice” to the President, while ensuring he receives frank “professional military advice” from the services. Our leaders possess “wide and deep” expertise on national security matters, Carter noted, and promised he would “be a stickler for the chain of command.” SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made it clear that Carter will be expected to tackle acquisition and procurement reforms, citing cost growth in programs such as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and the F-35 strike fighter. McCain said reform is a priority for both the committee and “me personally.” Carter said he intends to press for changes in areas such as compensation, contracting, staff, and overhead expenses should he be confirmed.