WASHINGTON — Nine months into the Trump administration, the Pentagon remains understaffed, with a particularly vital role left unfulfilled in the undersecretary of defense for policy — a vacancy that experts worry is impacting the ability of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to execute his agenda.
Alongside the Army secretary, the USD-P job is arguably the most high-profile spot empty at the Pentagon. It’s a key job that serves as both facilitator of the secretary’s will inside the department and his representative outside the building. A trio of former officials to hold that job describe it as a mix between consigliere, strategist and diplomat.
Michèle Flournoy, who served as USD-P from 2009 to 2012, describes the job as “the secretary’s deputy in the NSC process and in all international engagements as well as his right hand in developing the department’s strategy and reviewing the military’s contingency plans and operations.”
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