- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama named four top defense officials Thursday, continuing a pattern of choosing centrist Washington insiders from the Clinton era.

William Lynn, who served as Pentagon comptroller from 1997 to 2001, was named as the top deputy to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a Republican appointee whom Mr. Obama has asked to stay.

Robert Hale, who was Air Force comptroller in the Clinton administration, was nominated to hold that post for the Department of Defense as a whole. Michele Flournoy, who was a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Clinton, was tapped as undersecretary for policy. Jeh Charles Johnson, a former federal prosecutor who became the Air Force’s top lawyer in 1998, was nominated as Pentagon general counsel.

“I am confident that these distinguished individuals have the expertise and commitment needed to help me implement a sustainable national security strategy that combats 21st century threats and keeps the American people safe,” Mr. Obama said.

James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation said, “These are very mainstream, centrist, responsible people.

“They are fair-minded, smart people who know the issues well.”

But, he added, “These are the people who brought us the military we found out in Iraq and Afghanistan was too small and not adequately modernized.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Mr. Gates “looks forward to working with these four nominees. He interviewed each of them, came away impressed with their personal character and professional credentials, and recommended the president-elect hire them.

Mr. Lynn, if confirmed, will succeed Gordon England and handle day-to-day management of the largest department of the U.S. government - one that will face tough budget decisions as the federal deficit spirals.

Since her service at the Pentagon, Miss Flournoy has worked in academia and at think tanks, including becoming the founding president of the Center for a New American Strategy, a centrist research center.

Center spokesman Price Floyd said Miss Flournoy “has proved to be a great leader here and will doubtless be one at [the Department of Defense].”

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