- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These kind of games of ranking influence are fun, and perhaps useful in that they make one consider how things work. Also, if someone is ranked much higher than you expect, it makes you consider for a moment whether you fully understand them.
That said, I find this list of the 100 most influential people in defense pretty flawed, and perhaps a bit naïve. I would have included at least one or two congressional staffers, and a couple of people from the staff of the National Security Council. And in an administration whose foreign policy is as politicized as Obama’s is, I would expect to see a couple of White House political advisors. Also, I don’t think I saw OMB on that list — OMB looms very large for defense secretaries.
At the Pentagon, I suspect the list overestimates Andy Marshall’s current influence, and I say that as the writer who wrote the first profile of him, about 17 years ago.
Also, journalists tend to be reluctant to credit the influence of other journalists, but I think David Ignatius should be on the list. Finally, where is Digital Washington — Google, Palantir, and so on? Finally, I think that using little groups to get in more names is kind of a copout, if the process is indeed intended to select the top 100.
So, I would give it a C-.