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Names: Chollet to replace Vershbow at Pentagon

President Barack Obama announced his intention late on Friday to appoint Derek Chollet to be assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, replacing Sandy Vershbow, who has already assumed his new role as deputy secretary general of NATO. Chollet is currently the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council (NSC) and ...

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629896_120316_derek_chollet_200_1.jpg

President Barack Obama announced his intention late on Friday to appoint Derek Chollet to be assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, replacing Sandy Vershbow, who has already assumed his new role as deputy secretary general of NATO.

Chollet is currently the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council (NSC) and until last year served as the number two official at the State Department's Policy Planning Office under Anne-Marie Slaughter. Before Obama took office, Chollet was working at the Center for a New American Security, the think tank started by former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell.

His move is only the latest in a string of appointments of NSC officials to Pentagon posts following the departure of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what many in Washington see as a White House effort to reassume control over the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Former NSC Chief of Staff Mark Lippert has been nominated to be assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, although his nomination is stalled in the Senate. Former NSC Director Matt Spence has taken over as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, a position that doesn't require Senate confirmation.

President Barack Obama announced his intention late on Friday to appoint Derek Chollet to be assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, replacing Sandy Vershbow, who has already assumed his new role as deputy secretary general of NATO.

Chollet is currently the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council (NSC) and until last year served as the number two official at the State Department’s Policy Planning Office under Anne-Marie Slaughter. Before Obama took office, Chollet was working at the Center for a New American Security, the think tank started by former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell.

His move is only the latest in a string of appointments of NSC officials to Pentagon posts following the departure of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what many in Washington see as a White House effort to reassume control over the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Former NSC Chief of Staff Mark Lippert has been nominated to be assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, although his nomination is stalled in the Senate. Former NSC Director Matt Spence has taken over as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, a position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

Chollet’s new position, if confirmed, would give him purview over defense policy covering a huge number of countries and regions. The policy shop in the Pentagon is divided among five assistant secretaries, but only Asia and the Western Hemisphere fall under specific assistant secretaries, leaving policy regarding almost the entire rest of the world under Chollet’s domain.

The president also announced his intention to nominate Kathleen Hicks to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, replacing Jim Miller, who has been nominated to replace Flournoy as undersecretary of defense for policy. Hicks’ current position is deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces. Since all nominations seem to be held up in the Senate, both Miller and Hicks could have the “acting” qualifier on their titles for a while. Hicks also previously worked with Flournoy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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