Potential Defense Secretary

 In elections, Middle East, military, War
The Cabinet: Defense Secretary
By John M. Donnelly, CQ Staff

Under the unusual system of civilian control of the United States military, the person with the best office in the Pentagon’s “E Ring” is No. 2 in the chain of command and is the principal military policy adviser to the president. Under the orders of the commander in chief, the secretary can call all the shots he wants at the Defense Department, which includes the separately organized military departments of Army, Navy, and Air Force; the Joint Chiefs of Staff providing military advice; the combatant commands; and all defense agencies and field activities.

For McCain

Joseph I. Lieberman

Senator from Connecticut

He became McCain’s first choice for a running mate who would shake up the campaign, but the notion of a pro-labor, pro-environment, pro-abortion-rights former Democrat on the ticket — even one as hawkish as Lieberman — threatened to throw the GOP convention into turmoil. Still, McCain would probably give one of his closest Senate friends his choice of Cabinet jobs. And national security issues form by far the strongest public policy bond between the two. They have been on the Armed Services Committee together for 16 years, both supported launching the Iraq War and both backed the deepening involvement there through the 2007 troop “surge.” And both take a generally combative approach to Iran. Democrats might also be happy to send Lieberman to the Cabinet in order to be rid of someone they see as a turncoat — especially if the party gains enough Senate seats in November that it can afford to, at least nominally, give one up. (Lieberman’s two-year replacement would be picked by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.)

Robert M. Gates

The current secretary

During his two years at the Pentagon he has earned a reputation as a candid, practical executive who has had a steady hand on the helm compared with his more divisive predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. McCain knows firsthand that Gates has a solid relationship with congressional Democrats. Indeed, at a Senate Armed Services hearing recently, Democrats praised the secretary more than Republicans. McCain might place a premium on continuity of command, considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and stay with Gates, who was CIA director from 1991 to 1993 and president of Texas A&M University for four years. Gates, however, may have different ideas: He talks fondly of his retirement home in the Pacific Northwest and carries a device that counts down the days until the inauguration.

Tom Ridge

Former Homeland Security secretary

An affable man with an extensive government r??sum??, he was the first secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. Right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he resigned during his seventh year as governor of Pennsylvania to serve as White House homeland security czar. He and McCain, a fellow Vietnam combat veteran, became friends as House freshmen in 1983 — and Ridge was on the GOP vice presidential short list, scratched off because his support for abortion rights was sure to roil the conservative base. He’s now a self-employed security consultant.

For Obama

Jack Reed

Senator from Rhode Island

He was touted as running-mate material this summer after accompanying Obama on his trip to the Middle East — selected, along with Nebraska’s GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, because Obama has come to trust Reed’s expertise on military affairs. A West Point graduate and former faculty member who was a company commander of fellow paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division, Reed now chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. From that position, he has been out front in Democratic efforts to legislate a reduced U.S. military presence in Iraq. He is considered a serious student of security issues and is well-liked on both sides of the aisle.

Richard J. Danzig

Campaign’s senior national security adviser

A former Harvard and Stanford law professor and international lawyer at Latham & Watkins, he was undersecretary and then secretary of the Navy in the final three years of the Clinton administration. Soft-spoken and erudite, he would be an obvious alternative to a more politically potent figure. But Danzig knows his way around the Pentagon and can handle himself in public, as he’s shown in his appearances during the campaign. He has suggested the need for a balance, in dealing with other nations, between confrontation and cooperation. He has said the United States should try to engage rather than isolate Russia in the wake of its invasion of Georgia. He has also said defense spending under Obama should not dip much, primarily because of the cost of restoring military readiness.

Robert M. Gates

The current secretary

He may well be asked by Obama to stay on as the 22nd Defense secretary for the same reasons it would be attractive for McCain to keep Gates on the job: his sharp skills, his winning political ways and the benefit of continuity in wartime. For Obama, Gates would send a signal of bipartisanship at a time when the “global war on terrorism” has become increasingly charged with politics — just as former GOP Sen. William S. Cohen of Maine was picked by Democrat Bill Clinton in his second term to run the Pentagon and smooth frayed relations with Capitol Hill. Particularly if the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to deteriorate and security gains in Iraq falter, Obama could give the retention of Gates serious consideration.

Source: CQ Weekly

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