With Defense Secretary Robert Gates probably leaving in February -- and having reaffirmed his intent to depart -- the administration has apparently begun to approach candidates for the job. We hear one of the top contenders, Sen. Jack Reed, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was approached. We don't know by whom.
Reed, apparently with his eyes on the future prize of the SASC chairmanship, declined. So, where does that leave the list of possible defense secretaries? John Hamre, we hear, might well accept the job if it is offered to him though he is not pursuing it. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former SASC member, continues to be mentioned as a possible candidate. And there is the redoubtable Paul Kaminski, former undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, who has played an important advisory role to the Obama administration on intelligence issues.
All three share one attribute: sangfroid. Clinton demonstrated this quality repeatedly during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Hamre is renowned for his publicly cool demeanor, leavened with a penetrating sense of humor. Kaminski, the least publicly known of the three, possesses a supple and broad intelligence. He's kept current with defense and intelligence issues through membership on an array of panels: the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Technical Advisory Board; the National Reconnaissance Office Technology Advisory Group; and the FBI Director's Advisory Board.
These candidates won't give Obama the political protection he gets from Defense Secretary Robert Gates as they are all Democrats. But Hamre is an adept political hand, in the public eye, in the industrial world and on the Hill. Kaminski possesses an abundance of personal integrity and gravitas that should serve him well defending the war in Afghanistan and in the coming budget battles. Clinton's future may well rest on how well she is perceived to handle the current Mideast peace talks.