WASHINGTON – Congress has formed a new advisory committee of top defense thinkers, in order to provide a pathway forward for the Department of Defense.
As required by 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States includes two former four-stars, three Obama-era Pentagon officials, and several well-known voices from the Washington think tank community.
The Commission is charged with “reviewing the current national defense strategy of the United States, including the assumptions, missions, force posture, force structure, and risks associated with the strategy,” according to a news release. The group will also take a “comprehensive assessment of the strategic environment, national security threats, the size, shape, and posture of the force, military readiness and capabilities, and the allocation of resources. “
Each of the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate defense committees were allowed to choose three representatives for the commission.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, selected:
Eric Edelman – Edelman, a former ambassador to both Finland and Turkey, served as undersecretary of defense for policy from 2005-2009. He has held a number of roles in the DC think tank scene. He was also a vocal critic of then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
Andrew Krepinevich – A fixture of the defense community for several decades, Krepinevich is perhaps best known as the longtime head of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. He is a disciple of Office of Net Assessment legend Andrew Marshall, who he immortalized in his book The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern Defense Strategy.
Roger Zakheim – Zakheim is a partner with law firm Covington and Burling, where he focuses on government contracts. But he is better known in the defense realm as a visiting scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and a vocal proponent for increasing defense budgets. Zakheim, who organizes the annual Reagan Defense Forum every year, is also a former general counsel and deputy staff director for the House Armed Services Committee.
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith D-Wash., selected:
Ret. Adm. Gary Roughead – Roughead served as the 29th Chief of Naval Operations from 2007 to 2011. Prior to becoming the top uniformed official in the Navy, he served as Commandant, United States Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy’s Chief of Legislative Affairs, and as Deputy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. He is currently the Robert and Marion Oster Distinguished Military Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Kathleen Hicks – Hicks is currently senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. She has served in a number of Pentagon jobs, culminating in her time as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy under the Obama administration.
Mike McCord – McCord served as comptroller at the Pentagon from June 2014 through the end of the Obama administration, overseeing the Department of Defense’s budget through sequestration, the rise of ISIS, and ongoing issues in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a former staff member on the SASC.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., selected:
Jon Kyl – Kyl serves next to McCain as the junior senator from Arizona from 1995 to 2013, and was the number two republican in the Senate from 2008 to his retirement. He now works as an adviser with law firm Covington and Burling, and is a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute.
Ret. Gen. Jack Keane – Keane is the former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and a frequent contributor to Fox News. In November, Keane claimed that Trump asked him to become Secretary of Defense, but that the retired general declined due to personal reasons. Keane retired from the military in 2003.
Thomas Mahnken -- Mahnken is president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning from 2006–2009, and has served on a number of DoD advisory panels. He represents another link to Marshall’s Office of Net Assessment.
Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I., selected:
Christine Fox – Fox served as acting united states deputy secretary of defense from December 3, 2013 until May 1, 2014, making her the highest serving woman in Pentagon history. She previously served Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. Fox was the inspiration behind the character of “Charlie” in the 1986 movie Top Gun.
Michael Morell – Morell comes from the intelligence world, having served as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and twice as its Acting Director. He had over 30 years with the CIA before retiring to join Beacon Global Strategies in 2013. He has been a frequent critics of President Trump, largely around the question of ties to Russia.
Anne Patterson -- Patterson served as the assistant secretary of state for near-eastern affairs from 2013 to 2017. She previously served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt until 2013 and as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2007 to 2010. Patterson is also a figure of recent controversy; according to multiple reports, she was the top choice of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to be undersecretary of defense for policy, but her nomination was blocked by two Republican senators.
The committee will result in a final report detailing threats to the U.S., potential future conflicts and how the Pentagon must change to face those dangers. That report, when completed, will be submitted to the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.