President Barack Obama has named Christine Fox as acting Deputy Secretary of Defence, the No. 2 spot in the Pentagon,
The move would make Fox the most powerful woman in America’s military, and the highest ranking woman in military history.
Fox, a mathematician and a specialist in Maritime Air Superiority (MAS), got her start in the early ’80s advising the Navy how best to defend its aircraft carriers. She did so across the street from the Navy’s premier flight school, Top Gun — which consequently led to her being the inspiration behind the iconic female lead “Charlie.”
“Charlie” was an astrophysicist who taught “Maverick” (and the others) how to kill MiG jets in aerial combat, while in reality Fox is an expert in aggressive missile and air defence.
“My actual job has much more to do with the guy in the back seat of the plane, the radar-intercept operator, than the guy in the front, the pilot,” she told People magazine 27 years ago, when Top Gun was in production. “I don’t know anything about flying aeroplanes, but I know a lot about the guy in the back seat — his mission, his radar and his missiles.”
At the time, Fox was part of the think tank Center for Naval Analyses that sent her to the West Coast to advise the admiral who commanded air defence for the Pacific fleet.
People noted that even then, Fox had “flown in B-52s and the E-2C early-warning aircraft, observed exercises from the aircraft carrier Kennedy and taken water-survival and ejection-seat training” in an effort to better understand her charge.
Obama says the move is temporary until he can find a permanent replacement for Ashton Carter, who announced in October his intent to retire as the Pentagon’s civilian equivalent of a Chief Operating Officer.
Fox had previously been working as a director for Secretary Chuck Hagel on the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which is set to make the tough fiscal choices for cutting the DoD budget. She left earlier in the year to take a job at Johns Hopkins applied physics lab to do much the same thing: make sure the budget met the mission of the laboratory.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Fox is renowned for wanting to take a concerted, strategic look at the Pentagon’s budget, and favours a targeted approach rather than the brinksmanship politics which tilts toward across the board cuts.
Fox wrote in an opinion article for Defence News titled “Stop Pretending Enforced Cuts Won’t Be Harmful:”
There needs to be a serious national dialogue on what a sensible, sustainable and strategically sound defence budget looks like. But let’s drop the illusion that by efficiency nip and managerial tuck the U.S. military can absorb cuts of this size and of this immediacy without significant consequences for America’s interests and influence in the world.
One officer interviewed about Fox described her as the “smartest women I’ve ever met.”
And People concluded of her military prowess that, “[t]he footsteps of 6′ Christine Fox [around Naval bases] … carry the impact of a preemptive strike.”
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