The Cable

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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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.

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