SECDEF prep school

Class is in for Chuck Hagel, the star (and only) pupil attending secretary of defense preparatory school, where the teachers are familiar top Pentagon and personal aides. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has loaned his chief of staff and longtime body man Jeremy Bash to shepherd Team Hagel, which is counting down toward a January 31 ...

William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Class is in for Chuck Hagel, the star (and only) pupil attending secretary of defense preparatory school, where the teachers are familiar top Pentagon and personal aides.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has loaned his chief of staff and longtime body man Jeremy Bash to shepherd Team Hagel, which is counting down toward a January 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel has been shuttled from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill for meetings with key senators, some of whom needed convincing before endorsing his nomination, and issue briefings with Defense Department officials and staffers.

Class is in for Chuck Hagel, the star (and only) pupil attending secretary of defense preparatory school, where the teachers are familiar top Pentagon and personal aides.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has loaned his chief of staff and longtime body man Jeremy Bash to shepherd Team Hagel, which is counting down toward a January 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel has been shuttled from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill for meetings with key senators, some of whom needed convincing before endorsing his nomination, and issue briefings with Defense Department officials and staffers.

“He’s starting to get substantive briefings on a variety of topics,” said an official working on Hagel’s confirmation, who was not authorized to speak on the record. The briefings with Defense Department experts range from topics like Iran to learning the details about the troops and military structure.

Marcel Lettre, special assistant to Panetta and former principal deputy secretary of defense for legislative affairs, is running the day-to-day operations for Team Hagel. Lettre ran transition duty for Panetta when he succeeded Robert Gates, in June 2011. He has been especially involved this week as Bash is accompanying Panetta through Europe on the secretary’s last overseas trip.

Elizabeth King, assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, is in charge of Hagel’s hill visits. “She’s the legislative guru,” the official tells E-Ring.

Always at Hagel’s side remains Aaron Dowd, who knows Hagel better than anyone. Since he was 18 years old, Dowd has been with Hagel, most recently as his de facto chief of staff. He’s the only staffer that Hagel has brought with him to the Pentagon so far, the official said.

In a bit of a class reunion, working press for Hagel are Pentagon press secretary George Little, who also is in Europe, and Marie Harf, Little’s former deputy at the Central Intelligence Agency. Most recently, Harf was a national security spokeswoman for the Obama campaign out of Chicago.

Assuming Hagel is confirmed, it is still unclear what staff will stay and who will go. The E-Ring will keep you apprised.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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