The U.S. Navy received a boost when word spread Tuesday that White House planned to nominate Robert Work, a former top Navy official, as the deputy defense secretary.
Work is currently leading a top Washington D.C. think tank, the Center for a New American Security. He stepped down from his post as the under secretary of the Navy last year after serving four years in that capacity.
Work served as the Navy’s top man on Capitol Hill where he has many close relationships with senior committee staffers. In that role, he was able to defend controversial Navy acquisition programs such as the Littoral Combat Ship.
He developed a reputation as an official who didn’t get lost in talking points. Instead, he outlined the Navy’s position with straight talk that was appreciated by Hill staffers and the media alike, who try to sift through the Pentagon’s sea of abbreviations and “capability/requirements” speak.
A retire Marine officer, Work served 27 years in the Corps before he joined the the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments as a senior fellow. The year before he took over as the Navy’s under secretary in 2009, he served on President Obama’s Department of Defense Transition Team when Obama took office.
Since former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stepped down as the Pentagon No. 2 in December, Christine Fox has been serving in that capacity. News of the impending nomination was broken by Bloomberg News on Tuesday. The nomination is expected to occur this week.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will depend on Work to continue to cultivate the strong relationships he developed in Congress as the defense budget remains under attack. Work comes aboard soon after the Pentagon and White House supported a plan to cut the LCS fleet by 20 ships.
Plenty of questions remain on a host of big ticket defense weapons programs — namely the Joint Strike Fighter. If confirmed, he will also have to work with Hagel and the military brass as the Defense Department transitions off a war footing that it’s sustained since 2001.