WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph Biden has announced his landing team for the Department of Defense, and it contains a number of well-known names.
The team is led by Kathleen Hicks, who served as both principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, as well as deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces in the Obama administration. She is currently the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' International Security Program.
Also included on the list is Christine Wormuth, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. Wormuth held a number of roles in the Obama administration, culminating as undersecretary of defense for policy from 2014-2016. Both Hicks and Wormuth were seen as contenders for top DoD jobs, perhaps deputy secretary of defense, before today’s announcement.
The full list:
• Susanna Blume of the Center for a New American Security, who served as deputy chief of staff for programs and plans under Bob Work
• Sharon Burke of the New America think tank, a former assistant secretary of defense for operational energy
• Lisa Coe of OtherSide Consulting, a defense industry consultant
• Melissa Dalton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has held a number of jobs in the Pentagon
• John Estrada, a Marine Corps veteran who was appointed as ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago towards the end of the Obama administration
• Victor Garcia of Rebellion Defense, a former director of engineering for the U.S. Digital Service
• Karen Gibson, a retired Army lieutenant general who retired in March as deputy director of National Intelligence for National Security Partnerships
• Michelle Howard, a retired four-star admiral who became the first woman to serve as vice chief of staff for any military branch
• Andrew Hunter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a well-known acquisition expert
• Mike McCord of the Stennis Center for Public Service, a former DoD comptroller during the Obama administration
• Farooq Mitha, who served as special assistant to the director of the Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs under Obama and as a senior advisor on Muslim American engagement for the Biden campaign
• Frank Mora for Florida International University, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere under Obama
• Michael Negron, a Navy vet with ties to former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who is currently assistant director at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to the state of Illinois
• Stacie Pettyjohn of the RAND Corporation, an expert in wargaming who works on strategy and doctrine issues
• Ely Ratner of the Center for a New American Security, Biden’s deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration
• Deborah Rosenblum of the Nuclear Threat Initiative , a nuclear expert who has been part of negotiations with North Korea
• Lisa Sawyer of JPMorgan Chase, who worked a number of jobs at both the Pentagon and National Security Council
• Shawn Skelly of CACI International, a Navy vet, former commissioner on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and vice-president of the Out in National Security group
• Terri Tanielian of the RAND Corporation, who focuses on military and veteran health issues
• Veronica Valdez, a former special assistant to both Navy and Air Force leadership, currently with the Port of Seattle
• Debra Wada, a former assistant secretary of the Army (Manpower & Reserve Affairs) and longtime House Armed Services Committee staffer
Overall, 15 of the 23 members of the Pentagon landing team are women. The D.C. think tank scene is well represented: Blume, Burke and Ratner all have ties to the Center for a New America think tank, founded by Michèle Flournoy, widely expected to be Biden’s pick for secretary of defense. Hicks, Dalton and Sawyer have ties to CSIS, while Pettyjohn, Tanielian and Wormuth are all tied to RAND.
Other names of note from the other landing teams include Madylen Creedon, a former deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration who is likely to be on any shortlist to lead the nuclear warhead agency, as part of the Department of Energy team and Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs who is on the State Department team. Vince Stewart, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency and was the deputy director of U.S. Cyber Command, is the co-lead for the intelligence team.
While the Biden landing team is assembled, it currently has no where to go. Until General Services Administration gives its approval, the office space, funding and briefings that are given to transition teams of the next administration are frozen. Administrator Emily Murphy has not yet done so despite the Biden team’s apparent electoral victory, in a move Democrats allege is politically motivated.
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.