How is the Pentagon going to replace its very own Yoda? We’re about to find out.
The Defense Department just advertised that is searching for a new director for its Office of Net Assessment. The position was held for decades by Andrew W. Marshall, 93, who founded the Pentagon’s internal think tank in 1973 and was the only leader it ever had. Marshall, who decided to retire this past fall, was widely known by the nickname Yoda, after the wise alien character in the “Star Wars” franchise.
A job advertisement on the Web site USAJobs.gov says the position pays up to $183,330 per year, with a base of $121,957. The position will remain a Senior Executive Service job, putting it on par with other senior Pentagon jobs. It’s basic “futurist” function is the same: Consider crises and apocalyptic scenarios that could occur, and possible responses.
“The Director of Net Assessment is the Principal Staff Assistance and advisor to the Secretary of Defense for net assessment matters,” the job ad says. “The Director’s primary function is to develop assessments that compare the standings, trends and future prospects of U.S. military capability and military potential with that of other countries.”
The government will accept applications for the job through Feb 2. This means the office — once considered on the budgetary chopping block — will live on in the absence of Marshall. Top Pentagon officials said in December 2013 that they had decided to keep the office, but that it would be realigned to fall under the undersecretary of defense for policy, instead of directly under the defense secretary. It was restored again to independent status with the passage of the latest National Defense Authorization Act.
As noted in this 2013 story in The Washington Post, Marshall had a variety of advocates who argued that maintaining his independence was critical to ensuring that his ideas would not be undermined by rivals. Critics said it was difficult to scrutinize the intellectual value of his reports, most of which are classified, because of his reluctance to share them with others in the Pentagon.
Marshall was profiled frequently as he advanced in age. In a February 2003 profile in Wired magazine, he predicted that precision weapons, the ability to better coordinate separate military units and the rise of drones and other robots would have a big role in the future of warfare.
A book by two of Marshall’s former staff members, Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts, “The Last Warrior,” traces “Marshall’s intellectual development from his upbringing in Detroit during the Great Depression to his decades in Washington as an influential behind-the-scenes advisor on American defense strategy,” according to a preview on Amazon.com. The book is due to be released this month.
[Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.]