President-elect Barack Obama is expected to name five members of his senior national security team today, representing a centrist set of leading experts. They are former SACEUR Jim Jones as national security adviser, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security, Sen. Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, and Susan Rice as UN Ambassador. The President-elect also is expected to retain Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. See this post for more on Governor Napolitano as the likely DHS Secretary.
Of the nominees, I’ve only met General Jones, the former Marine four-star. When he was SACEUR and head of EUCOM, I was at NATO in 2006 as part of work for the Center for the Study of the Presidency. I was leading the staff work for a study that began in 2004. That project identified options for the U.S. to bolster its homeland security initiatives through engaging multilateral institutions like NATO. Dave Abshire, president of CSP, led our team, which included Max Angerholzer of the Lounsbery Foundation, Ambassador Gary Matthews of USIP, and former CSP Executive VP Jay Parker. General Jones talked with us for two hours.
While I expected only a cursory review of priority issues at NATO and a perfunctory acknowledgment of homeland security issues as being relevant to alliance workings, General Jones engaged us in a sweeping dialogue and provided a comprehensive explanation of trends and tensions across the Alliance that reached far beyond NATO’s immediate geography. He described the importance of reconciling EU-NATO interests and authorities, options for engaging Middle East nations and Mediterranean states, as well as the political forces behind several setbacks in pursuit of better global consensus post-9/11. This was clearly more than a unified combatant commander. He was already a national security advisor, just an under-employed one.
Apparently, both McCain and Obama sought Jones’ advice during the campaign. Jones hasn’t always agreed with candidate Obama. He chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq in 2007 and said a deadline for troop withdrawal would be “against our national interest.” Of course, a lot has changed since then. Jones also served as president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, which is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Gates will be able to get to work immediately as the first defense secretary held over by a new president since he will not have to undergo Senate confirmation.
Susan Rice, a specialist on Africa, advised Obama during the campaign and is a protégé of Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s secretary of state.
Napolitano has won an early endorsement from…Senator McCain. Considered a moderate Democrat, McCain said last month about Napolitano “I hope she is quickly confirmed.”