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SecDef Possibilities And Their Baggage

For at least another few hours we can live in the gray world where we don't know who is winning the presidential election. So let's look at some of the likely choices for defense secretary.

We'll start with McCain, since M comes before O. His close friend Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is almost certain to be on the short list for Defense Secretary. Lieberman is a rational hawk who long employed one of the smartest and most innovative people in the defense world as his national security advisor -- Fred Downey, now a VP at the Aerospace Industries Association. America's relationship with Israel would be a top national security issue for Lieberman, as would joint issues. During his tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lieberman has worked extremely hard on ways to improve coordination among the services and the other entities in the national security world. On the industrial side of things, Sikorsky, which is headquartered in Connecticut, would gain a great friend in a top post. Lieberman has always striven to help the company when possible.

Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who leads McCain's transition team, would certainly be on the short list. Lehman, who was instrumental in pushing the Reagan administration to build the 600-ship Navy, has been an investment banker for most of the time since he left government service. He serves on the board of Ball Corp., which does considerable intelligence and aerospace work for the intelligence community and the military. And there has been considerable discussion of the possibility that current Defense Secretary Robert Gates might be asked to stay on. While he is clearly a dedicated public servant, Gates has made pretty clear he wants to go home after the election but he has not said no to anything.

Over to Obama. Another former Navy Secretary, Richard Danzig, is the presumed front-runner for defense secretary since he has led the Obama national security team. After serving almost four years as undersecretary of the Navy, Danzig was named Navy Secretary by President Clinton. A Rhodes Scholar, Danzig has worked as a lawyer and a university professor when he wasn't at the Pentagon. For more on his national security priorities, have a look at this story by Christian.

John Hamre, currently CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies thinktank, is the other likely candidate for SecDef. Hamre gained a reputation as a gifted administrator and policy maker while he served the Clinton administration as Deputy Defense Secretary and Comptroller at the Pentagon. Hamre also understands the Hill, having served for 10 years as a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Hamre must qualify as one of the most respected minds in the American defense world. Gates thinks so highly of him that he appointed Hamre as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, which provides advice directly and only to the defense secretary.

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