Continuing Washington’s favorite parlor game of who will be named to an Obama cabinet, John Hamre, president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, appears to be out of the running for Defense Secretary.
Hamre assured staffers there that he was not going anywhere and would continue to lead the highly regarded think tank. Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense under Clinton, has been considered a strong contender for Defense Secretary to replace Gates. In October of last year, Hamre was appointed chair of the Defense Policy Board, an influential group that advises the secretary.
A Pentagon source who knows Hamre said the widely-respected former deputy Defense secretary had suffered from the perception among some Democrats that he was akin to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), an aspiring Republican in Democrat's clothing. After all, Hamre accepted Gates' offer to chair the policy board and Gates was appointed by Bush, these people argued.
There may well be another factor at work for Hamre. He has reinvigorated CSIS, making it once again a top player in the Washington influence game. He would be trading a relatively comfortable job at which he has been quite successful for one in which he would have no family life and tremendous challenges -- two wars, the coming budget crunch and all the expectations that Obama's election have unleashed.
From his position on the Defense Policy Board, Hamre could provide much needed continuity and some policy stability inside the building during the transition from Gates, with whom he has been working closely over the past year and who may stay on longer, to a new Defense Secretary. Given all that DoD has on its plate right now that could be one of the most vital roles anybody plays in the months ahead.