President Obama will nominate former Navy undersecretary Robert O. Work as deputy secretary of defense, the Pentagon’s number two position, multiple congressional sources tell RealClearDefense. The announcement is likely to take place Thursday.
Work has been considered the leading candidate for the position since then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stepped down late last year. In Carter’s absence, the position has been filled by Acting Deputy Secretary Christine Fox.
Work, a retired Marine Corps colonel, left his position as Navy undersecretary last March. Following his resignation, Work took the helm of the Democratic-leaning think tank the Center for a New American Security, where he has remained since.
Work, 61, may face obstacles during his confirmation. Capitol Hill sources tell RCD they expect tough questions on the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan and a recent Navy scandal involving senior officers accused of accepting bribes and other favors from an Asian port operator.
Work’s nomination has been complicated by recent debates within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), especially discussions of the Navy’s controversial Littoral Combat Ship. Work has been one of the leading proponents of the new vessel. But the ship has fierce critics within OSD, including the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, Mike Gilmore. That awkwardness reached a new height when Christine Fox issued a classified memo directing the Navy to halt LCS production after 32 ships (20 fewer than the planned buy of 52), and begin development of a “more capable surface combatant.”
This story has been updated from its original version. RCD first reported the announcement of Mr. Work's nomination could come as soon as Tuesday night. Additional reporting points to a Thursday announcement.