WASHINGTON — President Obama has named Christine H. Fox to be acting deputy Defense secretary, making the former chief of weapons cost analysis the most senior woman in Pentagon history.
Fox will replace Ashton Carter, who has stepped down. She was described by officials as a temporary choice while the search continues for a permanent deputy to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Her hiring reflects the administration's need to place an experienced manager in the Pentagon's second-ranking position at a time when it is facing steep budget cuts.
In a statement, Hagel called Fox "a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager" who "knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations better than anyone."
As head of cost assessment and program evaluation, a small but influential office that evaluates weapons systems, Fox worked closely with Hagel and his predecessors, earning a reputation for hard-nosed analysis while working on a review of "strategic choices" necessitated by the defense cuts ordered by Congress.
She left the job in June, becoming a senior advisor to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and development facility near Washington with about 5,000 engineers and scientists.
In an opinion article published last month in Defense News, an independent trade publication, Fox criticized the automatic 10% defense budget cuts ordered by Congress over the next decade, saying the spending cuts were harmful and likely to lead to a military that is "much smaller, much less technologically advanced and much less ready than we have been accustomed to over the last 30 years."
She wrote that closing excess military bases and reducing compensation to troops would help cut costs and preserve military power. But she noted that Congress had been unwilling to approve those steps in recent years.
Another way to save money would be to shrink the active-duty Army by 50,000 to 70,000 soldiers, which is possible if there is no need for lengthy ground wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.
But Fox added that in the review of strategic choices that she headed, it was "found that pursuing even the boldest reforms and strategically riskiest options — ones that assume away certain military contingencies and accept a much smaller force — still leaves the department $20 billion to $30 billion above budget caps."
By bringing in a former Pentagon official as deputy, Hagel will be able to leave other key advisors in place, including Robert Hale, an undersecretary of Defense who has day-to-day responsibility for overseeing the defense budget and had been rumored as a candidate for deputy.
Hagel "quickly came to trust Christine's judgment and deep analytical expertise," said a Defense Department official familiar with his thinking, who spoke about the decision in return for anonymity. "This decision also enables the senior management team [to stay] in place."
Hagel implied that Fox was not a candidate for permanent deputy, but she could remain in the job for much of next year, if not longer, depending on when a full-time deputy is nominated by the White House and approved by the Senate. By law, an acting deputy can remain in the job for 210 days, but may stay an indefinite period once a full-time deputy is nominated and awaiting confirmation.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times