WASHINGTON — Spencer Boyer, a former intelligence and U.S. State Department official, has been tapped to be the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy, Defense News has learned.
While the official announcement has yet to be made, Boyer is expected to fill the job, which serves as something of a point person for NATO nations. He is expected to take office Feb. 22, after the conclusion of this week’s NATO defense ministers conference.
Since July 2020, the job has been filled in an acting capacity by Andrew Winternitz, who also served as acting deputy assistant secretary of defense from November 2018 to October 2019.
While the Biden team has only announced three nominees for Senate-confirmed jobs at the Pentagon — with Defense Security Lloyd Austin and his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, having been confirmed — it has moved quickly to fill important jobs at the lower levels. Boyer joins more than 70 political appointees who have been announced as joining the Pentagon since Jan. 20.
Boyer has European expertise, although he does not appear to have much direct experience with the Defense Department. He served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs from 2009 to 2011, and as national intelligence officer for Europe on the National Intelligence Council from 2014 to 2017.
Since leaving the Obama administration, he has held a number of positions, including a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement alongside Colin Kahl, the nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy; if Kahl is confirmed, he will be Boyer’s boss. Boyer’s biography also cites ties to the Center for American Progress; the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies; the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; and the Brookings Institution.
Boyer most recently served as the Washington head of the Brennan Center for Justice. Michael Waldman, the center’s president, described Boyer as “very talented, a real leader in our organization, a very skilled lawyer and policy activist.”
“He has deep ties within President [Joe] Biden’s foreign policy world, which I think will help in a job like this because people in Europe will know he is speaking for the administration in a meaningful way,” Waldman added. “We’re sad for the Brennan Center, and very glad for the country.”
Boyer’s Twitter feed contains retweets of concerns about politicization of the military under then-President Donald Trump, criticisms of the plan to withdraw troops from Germany and a focus on fighting disinformation. The latter was the focus of an April 2020 op-ed he authored in Foreign Policy, and is something that Waldman expects will be a major focus for Boyer in his new role.
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.