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A Year on the Job, Hagel's Team Finally Taking Shape

Feb. 22, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
Sec. of Defense Hagel Makes Suprise Visit To Afgha
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who hopes to soon have most of his management team in place, speaks to the traveling press aboard his military aircraft en route to Afghanistan in March 2013. (Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The team of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — who’s entering his second year in office — is finally taking shape.

Hagel has surrounded himself with a team of experienced managers tasked with reshaping the Pentagon as defense spending declines following more than a decade of war, experts say.

One senior defense official said Hagel has been pumped and energized in recent staff meetings about the prospect of having a full-up staff as he begins chapter two of his tenure at the Defense Department.

Some of these undersecretaries and assistant secretaries will begin the confirmation process Feb. 25 when they appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The list of nominees includes: Robert Work, nominated for deputy defense secretary; Michael McCord, for comptroller; and Christine Wormuth, for undersecretary for policy.

Also scheduled to testify are Brian McKeon, nominated to be principal deputy undersecretary for policy; David Shear, to be assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; and Eric Rosenbach, to be assistant secretary for homeland defense.

Other nominations pending in the Senate include Jessica Wright, to be the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, and Jamie Morin, to be the director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office (CAPE).

Work and McCord were originally scheduled to have their own hearing on Feb. 13, however a snowstorm hit Washington and shut down the federal government.

“It’s critically important to have these seats full,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general who chairs the Reserve Forces Policy Board.

If the Senate confirms Work, Hagel will have a full-time deputy for the first time since Ashton Carter left in early December.

Christine Fox, who stepped down as the head of the CAPE office last summer, has been serving as the acting deputy defense secretary since December. The majority of her time has been spent constructing DoD’s 2015 budget proposal.

Customarily, the deputy runs the Pentagon, overseeing all major decisions, but other full-time deputy defense secretaries typically focus on a range of other issues and projects for the secretary.

For instance, Carter, who was Leon Panetta’s deputy and Hagel’s deputy for nine months, focused on acquisition improvement projects, led a group that looked to streamline military relations with India and made various bureaucratic changes to simplify the Pentagon’s management and oversight structure.

William Lynn, who was deputy for Robert Gates and briefly for Leon Panetta, was instrumental in the development of major DoD strategies for cybersecurity, space and operational energy.

Work would help Hagel shoulder a difficult workload, which lately has been dominated by a declining budget, revising the military strategy, military sexual assault and a cheating scandal in the Air Force and Navy nuclear ranks.

None of the nominees is new to the defense community.

Work served as Navy undersecretary before becoming CEO of the Center for a New American Security think tank last year. McCord is DoD’s deputy comptroller, and Wormuth is deputy undersecretary for strategy, plans and force development.

Shear is the US ambassador to Vietnam, and McKeon is executive secretary of the National Security Council and chief of staff for the National Security Staff at the White House. Rosenbach is the deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy. ■


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