Hagel Picks Christine Fox as His Acting Deputy
Christine Fox is named acting deputy defense secretary, temporarily replacing Ash Carter and making her the highest-ranking woman at the Pentagon. By Stephanie Gaskell
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has picked Christine Fox to become acting deputy secretary of defense until he can find a permanent replacement for Ash Carter, who steps down on Wednesday.
Fox, who led Hagel’s Strategic Choices and Management Review earlier this year, has informally advised Carter since leaving the Pentagon this summer and defense insiders say her knowledge of budget and acquisitions make her a great candidate for the job.
Perhaps best known as the woman who was the inspiration for Kelly McGillis’ character as Tom Cruise’s love interest in the movie “Top Gun,” Fox has come a long way since a 1985 People magazine profile that focused mostly on her looks (the pilots at Miramar gave her the call sign “Legs”). “The atmosphere at TOPGUN is so masculine that when Fox walks over on business, the guards sometimes ask whether she's there to pick up her husband's check,” the article said.
Now she is the highest-ranking woman at the Pentagon.
Fox is a “brilliant defense thinker and proven manager,” Hagel said in a statement. “As a key leader of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, she helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty.”
“She will be able to help me shape our priorities from day one because she knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations better than anyone,” he said.
Fox most recently served as the director of the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, known as CAPE. She resigned in June, after completing the strategic review, which provided Hagel various planning options based on budgetary scenarios should sequestration continue,
Fox will be filling Carter’s shoes until a permanent replacement is found. The number two job at the Pentagon is a Senate-confirmed position, but an acting deputy doesn’t need to go before Congress if they’ve worked for the Defense Department in the past year.
In a Defense News op-ed in September, Fox laid out her recommendations for cutting the defense budget under sequestration. She said another round of base closures and cuts to pay and benefits would be the most efficient way of cutting the DOD budget, but Congress won’t entertain cutting military bases in their hometowns or slash the paychecks of troops who have served since 9/11.
“After looking at these issues carefully, analytically with real data for several years now and, specifically, in SCMR, I know this much: Pretending that the ongoing political stalemate that perpetuates that the sequester is not harmful is the most harmful thing we can do. There needs to be a serious national dialogue on what a sensible, sustainable and strategically sound defense budget looks like. But let’s drop the illusion that by efficiency nip and managerial tuck the US military can absorb cuts of this size and of this immediacy without significant consequences for America’s interests and influence in the world,” she wrote.
She also warned that these mandatory cuts are hurting the military’s preparedness for war. “With military units unable to maintain a high level of combat proficiency, we are effectively gambling that a major operation against a capable adversary will not occur over the next three to four years,” she wrote.