Policy Chief Miller Resigns, Latest Senior DOD Official to Depart

Alexander F. Yuan/AP

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Under Secretary Jim Miller’s resignation, effective the end of January is no surprise but the timing adds to an exodus of talent leaving Chuck Hagel. By Kevin Baron

The Obama administration’s defense policy chief Jim Miller, under secretary of defense, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday that he will vacate his post at the end of January, adding to a string of recent high-level departures at the Pentagon.

Miller’s resignation was long anticipated in the Pentagon’s E-Ring power corridors, where he has served as the senior policymaking official since February. His move adds to a major ongoing reshuffle in Hagel’s front office, where the secretary appears settled into his new role and holdover staffers from former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates make way for a new team.

Earlier this week, Deputy Chief Management Officer Beth McGrath announced she would leave her post, as well.

Miller was the handpicked replacement for Michele Flournoy, his three-time boss, and key player on a team of liberal national security brains from newly minted think thanks like the Center for a New American Security, where she is co-chair of the board of directors that helped craft President Obama’s defense campaign messages and later gave a new direction for the Pentagon after President George W. Bush left office. Miller leaves on the table global security issues ranging from Afghanistan peace talks and reconciliation to nuclear talks with Russia, the Syrian civil war and North Korea’s nuclear threats last spring.

Hagel is unconcerned about the staff changes, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little, who announced Miller’s intended departure on Friday.

The secretary, meanwhile, has kept a relatively tight public lip as he found his sea legs as a Cabinet member under President Obama. That self-imposed restriction appears to be gone as Hagel is in the middle of a major media swing, giving at least a half dozen interviews to major news outlets including the Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and ForeignPolicy.com. At the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week, Hagel delivered perhaps his most significant keynote address on what lies ahead for U.S. national security.

On Nov. 14, Hagel is scheduled to headline the Defense One Summit, in Washington, with a live on-stage interview.

The next day, Hagel loses his spokesman, Little, who runs public affairs for the Defense Department. Little came to DOD with Panetta directly from the CIA and is leaving government to spend time with his young family. His replacement has not been determined.  

Additionally, the Pentagon’s No. 2 policy job has been vacant for months. Former Principal Deputy Under Secretary Kathleen Hicks left her post for CSIS this summer. Other vacancies: The assistant secretary of defense for Asian & Pacific security affairs, a job held by Mark Lippert, now Hagel’s chief of staff. Michael Sheehan left his post as assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, or SOLIC, which is the policy feeder to the U.S. Special Operations Command. One level below that, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs remains vacant as well.

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