Pentagon Subordinates


A lot of people have been wondering what Bob Gates’ retention means for the giant cast of subordinate appointees who populated the Department of Defense. Are all those jobs going to Republicans? The answer is no:

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 Michèle A. Flournoy; and possibly former Pentagon comptroller William J. Lynn, said Obama transition officials and sources close to the transition. […]

The four undersecretaries of defense are also expected to leave, Pentagon and transition officials said. These include Undersecretary for Policy Eric S. Edelman, who has announced that he will depart by Jan. 20, with Flournoy also a candidate to replace him. John J. Young Jr., undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, is “without question” leaving, a source close to the transition said, noting that Gates has publicly criticized the Pentagon’s unwieldy acquisition process as shortchanging U.S. troops in the field.

Steve Benen observes “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.” To provide some background and context, you need to understand that a lot of these guys were never Gates’ people anyway. Gates and Donald Rumsfeld had some pretty different ideas about a lot of stuff, but when Gates joined the Bush administration he wasn’t given the opportunity to clean house, fire everyone, and bring his own people on board. Since he’s been in office for a couple of years there’s been some turnover since that time, but still a guy like Edelman has always been a Cheney/Rumsfeld guy who happens to be serving as one of Gates’ top deputies, not a Gates guy who Gates is desperate to hang on to. In fact, I think we can be fairly certain that Gates’ views are closer to those of a moderate Democrat like Flournoy than to Edelman. So whether or not to get rid of people probably wasn’t a bone of contention between Gates and the transition. What needs to be negotiated isn’t whether or not some of these folks need to go, it’s who to replace them with.

Now it seems to me that at some point the Democratic Party is going to want to put a Democrat in charge of the Pentagon, so it’s especially important to see if someone like a Danzig or a Flournoy is given the deputy spot. You could easily imagine either of them serving as secretary in the future, but probably either one would be considered somewhat underseasoned at this point absent something like a spell as deputy secretary to acquire the requisite experience.