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Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  74 ratings  ·  18 reviews
From the former Secretary of Defense, a fascinating, behind-the-scenes memoir that reveals the inner workings of the Pentagon. A straight-talking account that explains not only what happens in the Pentagon but why--and why it matters--written by the man who used to run it.

There is no single institution in America as big as the Department of Defense. It spends more mo
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Paperback, 800 pages
Published June 25th 2019 by Random House Large Print Publishing
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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  74 ratings  ·  18 reviews


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Frances Johnson
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
Excellent book by Ash Carter, President Obama's Secretary of Defense. Lessons from a lifetime of leadership in the Pentagon, is the subtitle. Secretary Carter is an intelligent and talented individual who writes in an entertaining narrative. I highly recommend this book to all.
Jessica V
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This is one I’ll read again. Carter’s explanation of the roles and responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Combatant Commands was masterful. That section should be part of any strategic military education program. I’ve never heard anyone explain it so concisely and yet convey the nuances. I didn’t buy this book for this reason, but it was one of the parts that will cause me to return.

This is one of the few books I’d recommend getting both the a
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Ryan W.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Didn’t know what to expect from Secretary Carter’s book, but I give it 5/5 and say it is a must for any military professional who serves today. His unrivaled understanding of the Pentagon from his “Big 3” roles : Acquisition Czar, Dep. SECDEF, and SECDEF. Also, his methodical approach as a physicist almost breaks everything down into a x + y = z formula easy to understand. The aperture of this book is wide, but reasonable: swarms, technology, leadership, accountability, the future, diplomacy, an ...more
Janet Kerschner
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Carter takes us on a fascinating walk through the Pentagon based on his long experience working in several positions there. While he gives many examples from his personal history, this is more "user guide" than memoir.
Trent
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
During my time at the Pentagon, the civil servants and military assistants with whom I'd interact regarded Ash Carter with reverence. His name was everywhere in the USD(AT&L) offices where I sat as a skinny 23-year old cycling through the same few suits I had to buy. I'd look at the neat, fat "A" and "C" in his signature that would appear in the "packages" (folders with relevant documents that required signature) that I'd shuttle throughout the halls and rings of the massive building.

The st
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Nicholas
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened-2019
Carter writes a clear, relatively concise account of his time working at the Pentagon over the past 30 years. There are many high points to this book. Carter, a scientist by background, shows the importance of looking at defense-related policy problems from a technical point of view to help decide the best course of action. However, as DEPSECDEF and SECDEF he could no longer apply his technical expertise to every problem, although this background helped, and often had to determine the right thin ...more
Kalli
Some interesting tidbits if you’re a fan of bureaucratic maneuvering, but mostly it’s just Mr. Carter patting himself on the back...repeatedly. From drawing the Iraqi campaign map by hand, to turning the accidental bombing of a hospital into a positive political move, the former secretary of defense never hesitates to take credit and apparently never made a wrong move. To listen to him tell it, he’s the only honest, nobly-minded person in Washington and everyone from Presidents to Congressmen le ...more
Myles
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
After reading this book I can only imagine the horror Ash Carter felt as Turkish battalions marched into northern Syria and began pounding the Kurdish divisions who did the dirty work of the United States Army in its fight against ISIL.

Carter must be appalled.

And appalled by the micro-management of diplomatic affairs by the White House, not to mention the blurring of lines between diplomacy and political muckraking.

In this book ostensibly about the leadership
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Russ Mathers
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was great, it covered all Carter's experience in the Pentagon from his acquisition jobs to SecDEF. He narrates the book, and at first it was very dry and monotone. But he grows on you, and I enjoyed listening to him tell his own stories.

I recommend the book for anyone who served during Carter's period of service. He critiques President Trump in places, but for valid, specific reasons, decisions and actions. He also calls out President Obama where Carter disagreed with him, t
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Dan Watts
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I generally avoid autobiographical books, but I was interested in this one because the author was known for promoting the use of new technology at the Pentagon. Unfortunately, only 1 chapter deals with tech, so it wasn't what I had hoped for. On the other hand, there are a number of things that make this better than the average autobiography: it's all about "the good stuff" (his work at the Pentagon), he's (diplomatically) candid about people he didn't always agree with, and there are plenty of ...more
Daniel
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrific book that details the decision making and leadership lessons of the former #3, #2, and #1 leader in the Pentagon (Acquisition Czar, Deputy SECDEF, and SECDEF). Ash Carter served in multiple high level positions culminating as the Secretary of Defense in the last two years of the Obama Administration. His insights into how a Defense Secretary take information and process it to inform decisions makes this book worth the time to read.
Carter discusses all aspects from the intricacies of th
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Allie Weiskopf
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
This book is an absolute must-read. Not only did it educate me on some of the geekier sides of the Department of Defense (Carter started his career as a physicist), but he dedicates chapters to relationships with the media as well as personnel, waking readers through his hires and his feelings on those who disappointed him (Ron Lewis). He was candid and frank on his relationship with John Kerry (then SecState). I am surprised the book hasn't garnered more press attention.
Andrew Miller
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting background on an important member of the national security community. Gets into the weeds of Pentagon process in a way that I didn't care for but a coherent book. Not a book I'd recommend to people that don't have an interest in Washington or Pentagon politics but probably a good fit for people into that.
John DeRosa
Wondering how the memoir of a SecDef who rose through the civilian rungs as Undersecretary, DepSecDef, and SecDef will play out as the SecDef who has a cult following, rose to SecDef after being a general, and resigned before his tenure was over.
Andrew
As heard of on The Lawfare Podcast
Zachery Tyson
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh.
Doug McGuire
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
While offering great advice and doing a good job of explaining decisions made on his watch, the self aggrandizement got in the way at times. Otherwise, a good read.
Chainsaw
Best suited to readers unfamiliar with the military and the Pentagon. Tends to get repetitive, particularly regarding some of the author's achievements while in office and his personal views on the subsequent administration. 3-star rating for the informative content. A decent read, overall.
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