March 26, 2024

Pentagon Controversy Grows As a Top Official Resigns

A senior Pentagon official will step down this spring, adding to the flux in the department’s policy office amid the Biden administration’s challenges in confirming top civilian leaders.

Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker is leaving her position at the Pentagon to prioritize family time, as confirmed by a senior DOD official and a DOD spokesperson, both speaking anonymously ahead of a formal announcement.

Baker, who has a 14-month-old child, assumed the acting policy chief role last summer shortly after returning from maternity leave.

Amanda Dory, currently serving as the director of the Africa Center of Strategic Studies at National Defense University, will succeed Baker in the role, according to the spokesperson.

Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder later confirmed this information to reporters following initial reports on Monday morning.

As acting undersecretary of defense for policy, Baker serves as the principal adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on all matters concerning Pentagon policy, including support for Ukraine and the recent military buildup in the Middle East following attacks on Israel on October 7.

This development occurs amid the Pentagon's struggle to confirm its remaining nominees for top civilian positions, including President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the policy office. Baker has been in the role since July, following the departure of Colin Kahl, Biden’s sole confirmed appointee for the position.

The nomination of Derek Chollet to be the next undersecretary for policy has faced opposition from Republican lawmakers over his involvement in the Afghanistan evacuation, the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, and other issues.

Chollet, a former State Department official, faced intense scrutiny during his confirmation hearing in September, with GOP senators criticizing his previous comments on Afghanistan and the military. His nomination remains pending in the Senate.

Since Kahl's departure, the policy office has seen the exit of several key figures. In December, Mara Karlin, who had been performing the duties of deputy policy chief, departed from her role as assistant secretary for strategy, plans, and capabilities.

Melissa Dalton, who assumed the deputy policy chief role in an acting capacity after Karlin's departure, awaits confirmation as undersecretary of the Air Force after her nomination was advanced by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week following the latest turn of events.

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