Transition purgatory, part II: the National Security Council
Yes, it’s anxiety time for the hundreds of would-be Obama foreign policy advisors. Soon enough there will be some pretty big names left without a chair to sit on. Meantime, here’s our agency-by-agency guide to the Great Job Scramble of 2009, national security edition. Although President-elect Obama pretty quickly tapped retired Marine Gen. James L. ...
Yes, it's anxiety time for the hundreds of would-be Obama foreign policy advisors. Soon enough there will be some pretty big names left without a chair to sit on. Meantime, here's our agency-by-agency guide to the Great Job Scramble of 2009, national security edition.
Yes, it’s anxiety time for the hundreds of would-be Obama foreign policy advisors. Soon enough there will be some pretty big names left without a chair to sit on. Meantime, here’s our agency-by-agency guide to the Great Job Scramble of 2009, national security edition.
Although President-elect Obama pretty quickly tapped retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones as national security advisor and Tom Donilon, former Clinton assistant secretary of state for public affairs, as his deputy, there’s been precious little word since on who will join them (though Obama campaign foreign policy aide Mark Lippert is said to be a lock on NSC chief of staff).
In fact, there’s fewer political plums here than you would think: Only a dozen or so positions to be filled immediately, given that much of the NSC staff is seconded from other federal agencies who will hold over in the new administration’s early months. Not only that, but the Obama team reportedly plans to scale back the NSC from its Bush/Cheney days. Under Bush, the NSC had six deputy national security advisor positions; the Obamans are looking to a more traditional, flatter model, my sources tell me, with as few as one deputy national security advisor and senior directors for different regional and functional areas below that (Europe, etc.).
The likely new chief of staff, Lippert also could score the prestigious title of "assistant to the president" — traditionally only given to the national security advisor, not his or her deputy. But Lippert’s closeness to Obama seems to have earned him the unusual access. He started out on the Democratic Policy Committee in the late 1990s, where he got to know the Senate leadership staff under Tom Daschle well, and in early 2005, he became Obama’s foreign policy legislative assistant, the only foreign policy staffer Obama had as a senator. Friends say Lippert ended up there because Pete Rouse, the former Daschle chief of staff, was Obama’s chief of staff and knew Lippert from the DPC.
"Mark has a very strong reputation, is known as a likable, easy-going fellow. Doesn’t have any pretentious airs about him," one Hill friend said. "I have heard that he will be Jones’s chief of staff at the NSC staff, but will also hold the rather extraordinary title of Assistant to the President. You can’t go any higher than that — traditionally, that means you have access to the Oval Office whenever you want and can review all papers that go to the President." Lippert, a Navy intelligence reservist who was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2007 while serving as the Obama campaign’s foreign policy advisor, recommended another longtime Senate staffer, Denis McDonough, previously with the Center for American Progress, to work as the Obama campaign’s top foreign policy advisor while he was deployed.
Still unclear is who will become senior NSC directors on several key issues, including defense, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, democracy, and intelligence. My sources suggested three former Clinton-era NSC officials currently with the Brookings Institution are likely to take key roles: Philip Gordon, former Clinton NSC aide for the Europe senior director post; Ivo Daalder for senior director on nonproliferation; and Jeffrey Bader for senior director for Asia.
Daalder is an "obvious choice," Ploughshares president Joseph Cirincione, who served on a team of nonproliferation experts (led by Daalder) advising the Obama campaign, told me. "He has NSC experience, he is one of the top proliferation experts in the country. He did a superb job organizing the nonproliferation portfolio for the campaign. He is an excellent bureaucratic fighter and someone you want to have the power to coordinate between competing factions."
Bader and Daalder said they couldn’t discuss future employment. Gordon and Lippert did not respond to queries.
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