Scope of the Position:

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense manages one of America's oldest and most scrutinized agencies. The Department of Defense is constantly under the microscope as the country's largest source of discretionary spending with $585 billion, so it is important that the Deputy Secretary aid in the maximization of the Department's budget. DoD currently employs more than 85,000 federal personnel and oversees 17 additional departments (excluding military branches). Also serving as the Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense, the Deputy Secretary must be able to optimize organizational output and ensure that the Department is running fluidly and meeting all its needs.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

DoD has been included on the High Risk List for the following challenges:

Business Systems Management

According to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2005, the Department must work to modernize its business systems environment.1 A recent GAO report identified several key areas in which DoD continues to face management challenges, including establishing an investment approval and accountability structure and review process, developing business enterprise architecture and transition plans, and ensuring that business system programs over $1 million comply with business enterprise architecture. By focusing on these efforts, the Department can best comply with the modernization blueprint established in the NDAA.2

Financial Management

Under the direction of the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) Plan, DoD is working to address its financial management process and operational progress.3 DoD is also working to develop financial management workforce competencies and training through complementary efforts to best address financial compliance efforts. In the 2015 High Risk Report, GAO found that "DOD has not effectively monitored the risks in remediating its financial management challenges" and was "not in accordance with widely recognized guiding principles for effective risk management." In addition to these concerns, DOD's risk mitigation plans consisted of brief, high-level summaries that did not include critical management information, such as specific and detailed plans for implementation, assignment of responsibility, milestones, or resource needs.4 Agencies such as the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency have been identified as in line with risk management guiding principles and have been named as systems that DoD should emulate.

Support Infrastructure Management

Reducing excess infrastructure has been a continuous challenge for DoD, but it remains committed to managing its processes to meet historic preservation and environmental requirements in addition to working with host nations to avoid prolonged negotiations over the return of excess infrastructure in foreign countries.5 According to a recent report to Congress, DoD has an overall excess capacity of 22 percent.6 By reducing infrastructure, DoD could save up to $2 billion a year. The Department has experienced disagreement with Congress in initiating another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), a highly controversial tactic that doesn't always sit well with state and municipal constituencies.7


     1Defense Business Systems: Further Refinements Needed to Guide the Investment Management Process;; May 12, 2014.
     2DOD Business Systems Modernization: Further Actions Needed to Address Challenges and Improve Accountability;; May 17, 2013.
     3DOD Financial Management;; February 2015.
     4DOD Financial Management: Ineffective Risk Management Could Impair Progress toward Audit-Ready Financial Statements;; August 2, 2013.
     5DOD Support Infrastructure Management;; February 2015.
     6Department of Defense Infrastructure Capacity March 2016;; April 12, 2016.
     7DoD pegs excess base capacity at 22 percent;; April 19, 2016.      

Deputy Secretaries of Energy:

The majority of Deputy Secretaries of Defense held years of experience in either the DoD or various congressional defense-related committees and subcommittees prior to their appointments. In addition, military experience, either active duty or management, has proven to be valuable in attaining the position of Deputy Secretary.

Current Incumbent:

Robert O. Work (2014-present): Prior to Work's appointment as Deputy Secretary, he served as Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security. From 2009 to 2013, he worked as the Under Secretary of the Navy. In 2008, he worked on the Defense Transition team as the leader of the Department of the Navy issues team. Prior to this, Work served as the Vice President for Strategic Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Senior Fellow for Maritime Affairs. Work served 27 years in the military, holding a wide range of command, management, and leadership positions. He holds an MS in space systems operations and an MA in international public policy.

Previous Deputy Secretaries:

Christine Fox (Acting) (2013-2014): Fox currently serves as the Assistant Director for Policy and Analysis at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Preceding her appointment to Acting Deputy Secretary, Fox worked as the DoD Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. Before her career with DoD, she worked with the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), first as Vice President and Director of CNA's Operations Evaluation Group and then as President of CNA. She was also a member of NASA's Return to Flight Task Group to certify recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Fox earned her BS in mathematics and MS in applied mathematics.

Ashton B. Carter (2011-2013): He currently is the Secretary of Defense. Prior to this appointment he served as Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Before his time with DoD, Carter worked in various capacities in the private sector, such as senior partner of Global Technology Partners and as an advisor on global affairs at Goldman Sachs. He has also worked as a Professor of Science and International Affairs and Chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Carter also served as a Senior Executive at the Markle Foundation, where he focused on the Economic Future Initiative. He earned his bachelor's degrees in physics and medieval history and later received his doctorate in theoretical physics.

William J. Lynn III (2009-2011): Lynn is currently Chief Executive Officer at Finmeccanica North America and at DRS Technologies. Preceding his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Lynn served in several positions within DoD, including Under Secretary of Defense. From 1993-1997, he was the Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation in the Office of the Secretary. He also worked with the late Senator Ted Kennedy as counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee. Lynn earned his law degree from Cornell Law School and holds an MA in public affairs.

Gordon R. England (2006-2009): England is currently President of E6 Partners. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, England served as the Secretary of the Navy and the first Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. He previously served in several positions throughout General Dynamics, including President of the Fort Worth Air Company, President of the Land Systems Company, and Executive Vice President. He earned his BS in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland and MBA from Texas Christian University.

Paul Wolfowitz (2001-2005): Wolfowitz currently serves as a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the Chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council. Preceding his appointment to Deputy Secretary, Wolfowitz served as the Deputy Assistant for Regional Programs and Under Secretary for Policy. He previously worked as a Special Assistant for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. For several years, he worked with the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs and Director of Policy Planning. Beginning in 1986 he served three years as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia. Wolfowitz has a PhD in political science and BA in mathematics.

Rudy de Leon (2000-2001): de Leon currently serves as a Senior Fellow with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress. He served in a variety of positions at DoD, including Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness and Under Secretary of the Air Force. Before his tenure with DoD, de Leon held various staff positions in Congress. He also worked as a member of the professional staff and then as Director for the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. He holds a bachelor's degree from Loyola Marymount University and later completed an executive program in national and international security at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

John J. Hamre (1997-2000): Hamre currently serves as the President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Directly preceding his appointment as Deputy Secretary, he served as the Under Secretary of Defense. Prior to his time with DoD, Hamre spent a decade on the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. He also worked as the Deputy Assistant Director for National Security and International Affairs in the Congressional Budget Office. Hamre earned his BA in political science and economics in 1972 and went on to receive his PhD from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

John P. White (1995-1997): White currently serves as a Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners as well as the Director of the Concord Coalition and Center for Excellence in Government. White served in various capacities in DoD including Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics. Preceding his time with DoD, White worked with the RAND Corporation, where he served nine years as Senior Vice President for National Security Research Programs. He also served as the Chairman and CEO of Interactive Systems Corporation. From 1978-1981, he worked as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. White holds an MS and a PhD in economics.

John M. Deutch (1994-1995): Deutch currently holds the title of emeritus Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Preceding his appointment to Deputy Secretary, he was appointed Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Technology. He served on several presidential commissions, including the Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, Commission on Strategic Forces, Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. From 1977 to 1980, Deutch worked for the Department of Energy as the Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology, and Under Secretary for the Department. He earned his BS in chemical engineering and PhD in physical chemistry from MIT.

William J. Perry (1993-1994): Perry currently works as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute and the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, he served as Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Perry also served time in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Reserve Officer Training Corps as a second lieutenant. Perry holds his BS, MS, and PhD in mathematics.

Additional Resources: