With the announcement that Sec. Gates will be staying on at the Pentagon for at least a year during what is described as a “rolling transition,” my attention has turned to the new communications apparatus at the Pentagon.
As mentioned earlier this week, the Gates news is a near certain sign that spokesman Geoff Morrell will continue to serve as the voice of the Puzzle Palace in the short term. But if a Gates appointment is merely a bridge for Obama military adviser Richard Danzig to get up to speed as the next secretary, a new spokesperson will be needed in the near future.
Here is an initial take on the cast of candidates for the post-Morrell Pentagon flack job:
- Stephanie Cutter: Currently the spokeswoman for the Obama transition, she was a senior spokesperson on the campaign. Cutter was a deputy communications director in the Clinton White House though, so she might have reservations about speaking for a cabinet member later in her career, even in a post as prestigious as the Pentagon.
- Blake Zeff: Also from the Obama campaign, Zeff is an interesting choice who has been rumored for several White House communications positions as well. The twist with Zeff is that he is a former press secretary for Sen. Clinton. Does he have a place in a Clinton State Department? Foggy Bottom, or Arlington?
- Linda Douglass: Former ABC News Washington correspondent (and former Morrell colleague), also served as an Obama Advisor. She has deep roots in the Washington establishment, which could bode well for her, but not much experience looking across the Potomac.
- Tara Andringa: Spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Every Hill press secretary, whether they admit it or not, has aspirations to be the spokesperson for the White House. The only other two executive departments that Hill people aspire to are State and Defense, because those two are the only cabinet levels that do regular stand-up press briefings. She’d be an interesting pick; she has a bit of experience dealing with defense issues, although mostly on the minority staff.
- Dave Helfert: Communications Director for Rep. Abercrombie (D-HI) and the House Armed Services Committee. Definitely not interested. He loves working on the Hill, and it is a great fit for him.
- Price B. Floyd: Director of External Relations for Center for New American Security. Danzig is on the board of CNAS, and the relatively new progressive think thank has been referred to as the “farm team” for many national security positions in the Obama administration. Floyd has held several senior communications positions in the Albright State Department.
- Shannon O’Reilly: Deputy Director of External Relations at CNAS. She is a bit junior, but has past experience working for CENTCOM. I don’t know her, but have heard she is smart and spunky. Might be a good fit for a less-senior communications role.
- H. Andrew Schwartz: CSIS Vice President of External Relations. A well-rounded and interesting dark-horse option, Schwartz has experience working for Democrats on the Hill, producing for FOX News and writing for print media.
- Kris Osborn: My dark-horse pick. Kris is a former CNN war correspondent and now writes for Defense News (with a strange stint on Entertainment Tonight in between). He writes mostly about ground combat, which is the centerpiece of current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, so ramp-up time for him on briefing the issues would be small. Plus, he has strong ties with the Pentagon press corps, career civil servants and industry partners. He follows the Geoff Morrell mold of pulling a spokesman from the press corps.
And why not throw my hat in the ring too?
Just kidding. I really like working at BAE Systems, and can’t imagine the Pentagon selecting a spokesman born in the 1980s (although the U.S. this year elected its first congressman born in my decade; he is only a few months older than me). But who I am to say no if asked to serve?
Any other thoughts? Who do you think would be a good fit for the Pentagon flack position?