Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 2, 2008

THE OBAMA/GATES PENTAGON.... From a progressive perspective, there are a few concerns about Robert Gates staying on as Defense Secretary in an Obama administration. One of the main issues has to do with Gates' deputies -- Gates may be a sensible pragmatist, but deputies will have considerable influence on Pentagon decision-making, and they're not as inclined towards pragmatism as their boss.

As Chris Bowers recently argued, "If Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on."

Fortunately, it appears this concern is working out even better than expected, and Gates' team is going to see some significant changes

Although President-elect Barack Obama's decision to keep Robert M. Gates at the helm of the Pentagon will provide a measure of continuity for a military fighting two wars, many of Gates's top deputies are expected to depart their jobs, according to senior defense and transition officials.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Gates's right-hand man in running the Pentagon day to day, is widely expected to leave his post, said the officials, one of whom noted that England's speechwriter is reportedly taking another job.

Leading candidates to replace England include Obama campaign adviser Richard J. Danzig, who could eventually replace Gates; Pentagon transition review team co-leader Michele A. Flournoy; and possibly former Pentagon comptroller William J. Lynn, said Obama transition officials and sources close to the transition.

The anticipated turnover of many key positions suggests that although Gates will help provide some continuity, the status quo will not necessarily endure at the Pentagon.

The four undersecretaries of defense, including former Cheney aide Eric Edelman, will be replaced, as will the undersecretary for intelligence, and the undersecretary for personnel. As one source close to the transition told the Post, "At the undersecretary level, you are pretty much hitting the reset button."

It's unclear if the shift in deputies was part an arrangement worked out between Gates and Obama's team, or if these officials were planning to depart anyway. Either way, though, it addresses one of the bigger, if not the biggest, problem associated with Gates' extended tenure.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (7)

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Comments

They shouldn't replace the undersecretary for Intelligence, they should get rid of the job. It exists purely to insulate the Defense Support Agencies (DIA, NSA, NRO) from the control of the Director of National Intelligence. If you buy the idea of having an DNI with any real power, then you don't want this position at DoD to exist.

Posted by: Lance on December 2, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who carries even a remote scent of Cheney or Rumsfeld needs to go. It looks like this is happening, so good. It makes sense anyway, with Gates clearly a transition figure, that the deputies and undersecretaries would change, with one of them able to move into the top job.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 2, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Probably of minor significance, but:

"Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Gates's right-hand man in running the Pentagon day to day, is widely expected to leave his post, said the officials, one of whom noted that England's speechwriter is reportedly taking another job."

One of Gate's subordinates has his own speechwriter? And this is a full time job? Why? Can't they at least have a pool of speechwriters and share them? How many speeches does this guy England have to give in the process of doing his job? And the Republicans complain about a bloated government ... this is bloat from what I can see. How wide spread is this practice? The job market for speechwrites in DC must be fantastic.

Sorry ... there are so many more important issues to care about and I go get stuck on this bit of trivia. It just bothers me.

Posted by: Wacky Librul on December 2, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Chris Bowers apparently said:

If Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on.

And again I ask: what on earth is the basis for this claim by Bowers? It seems to be pretty plainly untrue, by all indications. Yet another reason to ignore Chris Bowers.

Posted by: John on December 2, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Bowers is a very very good poll reader and numbers guy. He is good on the meta of progressive policies and the blogosphere. And apparently he is a decent committeeman in Philly cuz no one has tried to topple him yet.

But beyond that he is just as good as anyone else.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 2, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Keeping Gates might help difuse some of the flak thats bound to pop up whan all hell breaks loose in Iraq and Afganistan.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 2, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Keeping on Gates should be viewed from the perspective of known enemies and potential challengers of US foreign policy. If Obama appears to be too much a neophyte or a dove, it would likely provoke more tests by such enemies, esp Al Qaida and governments like North Korea.

Behind such a seasoned team as he's assembled, such symbolism isn't required. Competence is. So the underlings of Gates have to be assumed competent unless their past or future record proves otherwise.

So I consider further speculation beyond these parameters to be meaningless. Continuity in foreign policy appearance is important. But in domestic policy, change should be apparent everywhere, where perceived weakness won't provoke attacks.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on December 2, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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