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Gates's Top Deputies Not Expected to Be Part of New Administration

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, confers with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a news conference in Chicago.
Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, confers with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a news conference in Chicago. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
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By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

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.

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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 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.

Continuity is likely to come in the form of Gates and military commanders leading the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a new deputy and team of undersecretaries would manage the Pentagon and focus on longer-range issues such as "the budget, the Quadrennial Defense Review, missile defense, relations with allies and preparation for the next crisis," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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.

The sensitive position of undersecretary for intelligence, created by Donald H. Rumsfeld while he was leading the Pentagon, is also likely to see a leadership change, transition sources said. "There is a real issue about how to fully recuperate" that office from the Rumsfeld era, and it would require a "team player" to promote more effective cooperation with the rest of the intelligence community, one source close to the transition said. The job is currently held by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr.

And Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu, who has served in the same job under Rumsfeld and Gates, is also seen as likely to be replaced eventually, the sources said. "At the undersecretary level, you are pretty much hitting the reset button," said a source close to the transition.

Among the services, Gates is seen as most likely to retain Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, whom he called upon after firing top Air Force leaders in June following a series of mishaps indicating a lack of oversight of the country's nuclear arsenal. Donley was named acting secretary but was confirmed and sworn in as secretary in October.

It is possible that Gates will stick with Army Secretary Pete Geren, a former Democratic congressman from Texas with strong connections on Capitol Hill. However, Flournoy has been discussed as a replacement for that post as well.

In 2007, Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security. The think tank has a $6 million budget and a bipartisan group of advisers, and it reached out early to senior military officers, said Jim Miller, CNAS director of studies. About 15 people affiliated with CNAS serve in national-security-related positions for Obama.

The Obama transition team is working to identify the next rung of Pentagon appointments, with an announcement expected before Christmas, one transition source said. There is likely to be high turnover among assistant secretaries, sources said, but one key official that Gates might consider retaining is Michael G. Vickers, assistant secretary for special operations, low-intensity conflict, and interdependent capabilities, who oversees a complex portfolio that includes some of the U.S. military's most sensitive operations.


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