WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Pentagon official Kathleen Hicks to serve as the first female deputy defence secretary, saying he wanted someone who knows the department “inside and out” to help restore order to an agency he says was cast into disarray by President Donald Trump.
Colin Kahl, who served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice-president, will be nominated for undersecretary of defence for policy.
The new additions to Biden’s national security team, announced Wednesday, signal a return to experienced hands as Trump has run through a number of defence leaders, including two confirmed secretaries and three acting secretaries of defence.
Biden complained on Monday that critical national security posts have been “hollowed out” in personnel, capacity and morale.
Hicks and Kahl would report to Lloyd Austin, the retired four-star Army general and Raytheon Technologies board member who Biden has tapped to be secretary of defence.
Austin’s nomination faces an additional hurdle in that both chambers of Congress would have to approve a waiver to a law prohibiting recently retired military officers to fill the top civilian job at the department.
Neither Hicks nor Kahl have served in the military.
Hicks, who heads Biden’s Pentagon transition team, is a think-tank expert on national security at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and is on the board of Aerospace Corporation.
She served as deputy undersecretary of defence for strategy, plans and forces from 2009-2012 and as principal deputy undersecretary of defence for policy from 2012-2013.
She would serve in the No. 2 job at the Pentagon, which directs day-to-day management of the largest federal bureaucracy.
Biden has also said he wants the department to take on bigger roles in vaccine distribution and climate policy under his administration.
Kahl, a professor at Stanford University, has served in a number of Pentagon roles, most recently as deputy assistant secretary of defence for the Middle East at the beginning of the Obama administration.
Kelly Magsamen, a former National Security Council and Pentagon staffer now at the Centre for American Progress, will serve as chief of staff to the secretary of defence, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Biden’s Pentagon picks come as he has complained publicly that current defence officials are denying meetings and refusing to turn over details of force posture and budget requests.
Trump is still contesting the results of the election.
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