WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Monday confirmed veteran defense official Mara Karlin to lead Pentagon strategy hours after Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., announced he’d lifted a procedural hold on the nomination over China policy concerns.
Hawley’s hold delayed Karlin’s bid to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. But he said he released it after receiving Karlin’s assurances that she favors centering the Pentagon’s force planning process on China and that she believes in employing a strategy of “deterrence-by-denial” ― as opposed to deterrence by punishment alone ― to counter China and its aggression toward Taiwan.
Those assurances came in an Aug. 6 letter from Karlin to Hawley that he released Monday.
Karlin is expected to lead the development of the next national defense strategy, a guiding document for the Defense Department’s future. The 2018 National Defense Strategy put strategic competition with Russia and China front and center and above countering terror.
Karlin has served in national security roles for five U.S. secretaries of defense, most recently as the the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. She served on the Biden-Harris transition team and, before that, as director of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
On Monday, the Senate also confirmed Caral Spangler ― who cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee with Karlin and others in a July 27 voice vote ―to be Army comptroller and assistant secretary of the Army for financial management. Gil Cisneros, the pick for undersecretary for personnel and readiness, is the last of that group awaiting floor consideration.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.