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Sources: White House Eyes Wormuth, Sherwood-Randall for Pentagon Policy Chief

Jan. 22, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Courtesy)
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Christine Wormuth / Courtesy

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WASHINGTON — On the shortlist to become the Pentagon’s third-ranking civilian leader are a senior Defense Department official and a top White House national security adviser, multiple sources say.

DoD’s Christine Wormuth and the White House’s Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall are under consideration by Obama administration officials to become Pentagon policy chief, a move that could make one the second female to hold the post, sources tell Defense News.

Wormuth now holds the key position of deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and force development, putting her in the midst of myriad high-level national security decisions. If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, it would fill one of a long list of senior-level civilian vacancies at the Pentagon.

Sherwood-Randall currently is the White House’s coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction and arms control on the National Security Staff.

If either Wormuth or Sherwood-Randall are nominated and confirmed, it would make her the second woman after Michele Flournoy to hold the job. The recently departed James Miller held the post most recently.

Multiple sources have said in recent days that Wormuth is under consideration for the undersecretary of defense for policy position.

Three former national security officials with knowledge of the search and a DoD source say Wormuth’s name is on the shortlist.

One Democratic source described her nomination as “strongly possible.”

Those and other sources also say Sherwood-Randall is a strong contender, with one saying she is asserting that she “was promised” the Pentagon job.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on who is under consideration for the position.

Sherwood-Randall took her current position last April, and previously was special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs on the NSS.

During the Clinton administration, Sherwood-Randall was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Sherwood-Randall has experience on Capitol Hill, which could prove key to a final decision on a nominee, having been chief foreign affairs and defense policy adviser to then-Sen. and now Vice President Joseph Biden.

Randall has held academic and think tank positions at Stanford University, Harvard University, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.

Wormuth also has ties to President Barack Obama and his top national security aides.

Prior to taking her current position, Wormuth was a special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and strategy on the White House’s National Security Staff. In that role, according to her DoD biography, she “was responsible for providing NSS expertise on global, functional, and regional defense, military and political-military issues.”

She also has been principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs. She also has been a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a principal at DFI Government Services.

The White House has struggled to find interested and qualified candidates for the Pentagon policy chief and other top posts, sources say. But administration officials are said to be eager to fill the key slot.

Placing women in senior posts has been a focus of the Obama administration, though GOP critics charge the president has fallen short of his initial rhetoric in that area. ■

Marcus Weisgerber and Paul McLeary contributed to this report.

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