Jones Would Bring Broad Experience to National Security Adviser Post

James L. Jones Jr. served as Marine commandant and NATO commander.
James L. Jones Jr. served as Marine commandant and NATO commander. (Heesoon Yim - AP)
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2008

If President-elect Barack Obama turns to James L. Jones Jr. to be his national security adviser, his administration would gain someone whose career spans much of the contemporary security landscape.

During 40 years in the Marine Corps, Jones, 64, rose from being a platoon and company commander in Vietnam to Marine commandant. In the international realm, he has served as supreme allied commander of NATO and as a special envoy for Middle East security. In the public policy arena, he has chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, a congressionally appointed panel that assessed the readiness of Iraqi troops.

Since retiring from the Marines last year as a highly decorated four-star general, Jones has worked on energy issues as the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

"He has a broad range of skills and experiences," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, who has worked with Jones through the years. "He is also an internationalist. He understands a lot of people and a lot of different cultures. He also is someone who has the interpersonal skills to bring together a wide range of people to focus on issues."

Several sources said Jones has moved to the top of the list to be Obama's national security adviser, a job that would put his skills to the test. The incoming administration will be faced with a crammed national security agenda. It has to manage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while working to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions, monitor North Korea's promise to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, and help stabilize a shaky Pakistan. At the same time, it has to tend to the nation's energy and economic security interests.

The national security adviser plays a crucial role in such issues, managing an interagency process intended to funnel vital information to the president -- a function that critics say has at times faltered during the Bush administration.

In a recent speech to the National Defense Industrial Association, Jones said the next administration should broaden the council's role to encompass more energy matters. Currently, the council, which meets with the president and vice president, includes intelligence officials as well as officials from the Defense, State and Treasury departments.

Jones is seen as a bipartisan figure. He served as an informal adviser to Obama during the campaign, although he did not publicly back any candidate. His name was mentioned briefly as a possible Obama vice presidential pick, but he has also served as a Middle East envoy for President Bush.

During his ascent through the Marine Corps, Jones held a wide range of posts, including company commander in Okinawa, Japan, Marine Corps liaison officer to the U.S. Senate, deputy director of the U.S. European Command and military assistant to Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.

Jones was born in Kansas City, Mo., but he spent his formative years in France, where his father sold farm machinery. The 6-foot-4-inch Jones is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he played on the school's basketball team. He is also a graduate of the National War College.

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