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Hill Loses; Pentagon Wins

Erin Conaton, presumptive undersecretary of the Air Force, is the outgoing majority staff director of the House Armed Services Committee. I've known Erin -- not well since she is always working -- and the Pentagon's gain is great.

Erin is passionate about the job of ensuring that America fields the best military possible. She also understands the crucial political limits of what can be done, something a shockingly few senior Pentagon officials know until they absorb the lessons at the school of hard knocks. If any service needs that sort of canny leadership, it's the Air Force. Secretary Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz are so closely tied to the defense secretary that the service can use a voice that comes with something of an independent power base. Be assured that Erin can call on Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the HASC, or any of the committee's influential staffers any time she might need a helping hand or a bit of understanding.

As proof of her relationship with Skelton, read this comment from him: “I have come to depend upon Erin Conaton as a trusted advisor and friend since she joined the House Armed Services Committee staff in 2001. Serving as the committee’s Majority Staff Director since 2007, Erin has consistently demonstrated her leadership ability, mastery of national security issues, and dedication to our men and women in uniform. Erin’s work ethic is unparalleled, but more importantly, she has a rare gift for getting along with people. Despite the demands of working on Capitol Hill, Erin is unflappable and approaches every challenge with a level head, whether working with Members of Congress, Congressional staff, or Administration officials."

Erin joins Loren Dealy, former HASC spokeswoman, in the Pentagon.

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