William F. Buckley, Jr. once said he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 people on the faculty of Harvard University. Surely, he would have appreciated the irony of this news.

Steven R. Watros of the Harvard Crimson reports.

Kennedy School Professor on Short List for Defense Secretary

Harvard Kennedy School professor Ashton B. Carter is on President Barack Obama’s short list to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, according to a report in The Boston Globe this week.

Carter, who from 1990 to 1993 led what is now the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, currently serves as Deputy Secretary of Defense while on leave from his professorship at the Kennedy School.

Carter’s candidacy for the top job at the Department of Defense has been boosted by praise from Washington insiders.

“[Carter] is supremely qualified…. He is very well respected in the Congress on both sides of the aisle,” former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry told the Boston Globe.

Despite widespread admiration, media reports suggest that Carter’s nomination is far from certain.

Unlike others on the short list, Carter is not a member of Obama’s inner circle. Candidates with close ties to the Obama administration include Michele A. Flournoy ’83, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy who is also a former Kennedy School researcher.

Still, cracks in former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel’s candidacy have created an opening. Though many political observers expected Hagel to receive the nomination, his chances have dimmed as a result of opposition from pro-Israel lobbyists and gay rights supporters. In the end, Hagel’s loss may be Carter’s gain.