As Sen. Tommy Tuberville persists in his obstruction of senior military and civilian appointments, a key Pentagon official is resigning at the month’s end, widening the chasm in confirmed leadership inside the Defence Department’s policy shop.
The National Defence Strategy, which was developed by Mara Karlin during the Biden administration, is set to be retired from government service at the end of the year, according to Sasha Baker, the acting undersecretary of defence for policy.
Through a statement given to HEADLINESFOREVER on Monday, Baker expressed his profound gratitude for “Dr. Karlin’s dedication, strategic acumen, and her profound commitment to public service.”. As a result of her work, the department is better able to plan for and respond to future security threats.
With Karlin’s resignation, acting officials will fill the positions of top official directing DOD strategy, as well as the top two positions in the policy office, until Republican Troy Tuberville (Ala.) relaxes his hold on civilian appointments. All issues pertaining to the creation of department-wide defence and national security policy are sent to the policy shop for advice by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The formulation of Pentagon plans and strategies was assigned to Karlin in April 2021 when he was appointed assistant secretary for strategy, plans, and capabilities of the Department of Defence. She took over as the office’s number two policymaker in July and has been serving as deputy undersecretary ever since. At the time, Colin Kahl was the top policy official, but he resigned, and Baker, who had been his deputy, was promoted to temporarily replace him.
According to Baker, Melissa Dalton, who is now the assistant secretary for homeland defence and hemispheric affairs, will take up Karlin’s responsibilities as the No. 2 policy officer when she leaves.
The nomination of Derek Chollet to succeed Kahl was made by President Joe Biden in July. The nomination of Chollet has not yet been decided upon by a Senate committee.
Though he finally removed his months-long veto on hundreds of top military promotions this week, 11 officers nominated for four-star positions remain in limbo. That has a domino effect further down the line, making it impossible for lower-level officers to assume their responsibilities. The Pentagon’s policy of paying for troops to get abortions is the source of the criticism that led to the pause.
Aside from the military embargo, the senator from Alabama continues to raise objections to senior civilian candidates at the Department of Defence. Nominations for the positions of assistant secretary for personnel and reserve affairs (Ronald Keohane) and assistant secretary of the navy for research, development, and procurement (Nickolas Guertin) are still pending confirmation, along with Chollet. Lieutenant General Timothy Haugh, who has been nominated to lead both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, is likewise in a bind.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to spend valuable floor time conducting individual votes for the remaining nominations, a tedious procedure, unless Tuberville releases his hold.
Karlin has played an important role in the Department of Defence (DOD) from the start of the Biden administration, holding high positions across the board. Her previous experience in the Biden administration includes two stints as deputy undersecretary for policy (August 2021–February 2022 and January–April 2023), as well as an acting appointment as assistant secretary for international security affairs (January–August 2021). The defence policy team was another place she was active throughout the changeover.
Karlin oversaw the AUKUS agreement—a trilateral cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia—that will see the development of new long-range weaponry, cyber capabilities, and nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian government. Karlin was also instrumental in drafting and implementing the National Defence Strategy. She was also instrumental in establishing the office of emerging capabilities policy.
Despite her return to academia, a spokesperson from the Department of Defence who requested anonymity in order to comment before an announcement said that she is planning to take a “semester-at-sea” with her family and teenage children.
The spokesman explained that while she is underway, she will be part of an academic team. They will provide a group of pupils with historical knowledge and unique global viewpoints, drawing on her experience in national security.