Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter dies suddenly at 68

Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has died suddenly at the age of 68, according to his family.

Carter died of a “sudden cardiac event” Monday night in Boston.

He served as Secretary of Defense under former President barack obama from February 2015 to January 2017.

President Barack Obama listens as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter delivers remarks at the Pentagon Memorial September 11, 2016, in Arlington, Virginia.

Leigh Vogel/WireImage/Getty Images, FILE

“As Secretary, he launched the successful campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, opened all combat positions to women, and forged new ties between the Department of Defense and the technology community of the country,” his family said in a statement. “While he was known for his deep 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 US forces. [with his wife Stephanie].”

Carter, who went to Yale University and was a Rhodes Scholar, joined the Department of Defense under former President Bill Clinton. He then served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from 2009 to 2011 and Under Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013.

He was nominated to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense in December 2014. He was confirmed, 93-5, by the Senate in February 2015.

Obama said in a statement, “As President, I relied on Ash’s strategic advice as we invested in innovation and a stronger, smarter, more humane and more effective military for the long term. Under her leadership, America accelerated its counterterrorism efforts, opened up combat roles to women, modernized its weapons systems, and strengthened our alliances around the world.”

The former president added that Carter’s greatest legacy was the young people “he taught, mentored and inspired to protect our nation and wield power wisely.”

President Joe Biden, who swore Carter in as Secretary of Defense while vice president, called him “a great American of the highest integrity.”

PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter answers questions during a press briefing at the Pentagon, July 25, 2016.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter answers questions during a press briefing at the Pentagon, July 25, 2016.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, FILE

In addition to leading the US offensive against ISIS, Carter also oversaw a period at the Department of Defense where all restrictions on women serving in combat were lifted and lifted a ban on transgender servicemen, a rule later overturned by then-President Donald Trump.

Carter joined the Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School after leaving government, where he served as director for the past five years. He had taught at the Kennedy School in the 1980s, before joining the US government.

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, wrote of his friend: “I want to express my gratitude for his insight and wisdom, his unwavering commitment to trying to make the world a better place, his confidence that the Kennedy School can making a significant difference in the world, his generous spirit towards his students and colleagues, and his warm and gracious friendship with me. I will miss him so much.

Carter is survived by his wife and two children, Ava and Will.

ABC News’ Mark Osborne contributed to this report.

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