Biden’s Pick For No. 2 Pentagon Spot Comes From Hawkish, Arms Industry-Funded Think Tank

Kathleen Hicks works for the Center for Strategic and International Studies

On Wednesday, Joe Biden’s transition team announced the nominee for deputy secretary of defense, the second-highest position in the Pentagon. Biden chose Kathleen Hicks for the job, a former Obama administration official whose most recent employer is the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS).

CSIS is a hawkish think tank funded by some of the country’s top weapons makers, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. CSIS also receives generous contributions from various governments. The think tank’s top government donors include the United Arab Emirates, the US, Japan, and Taiwan.

Since her time in Obama’s Pentagon, Hicks has been busy authoring policy papers and op-eds for CSIS that call for more US involvement around the world. In August, Hicks co-authored a piece for The Hill that slammed President Trump’s plan to cut troop numbers in Germany, a plan Biden could call off.

If he makes it through Senate confirmation, Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin will be Hicks’ immediate superior. Austin oversaw President Obama’s Middle East policy as head of US Central Command from 2013 to 2016 and currently sits on the board of Raytheon.

The transition team also announced on Wednesday the nomination of Colin Kahl for undersecretary of defense for policy, another high-level Pentagon spot. Kahl is another Obama-era official who served as the national security advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden from 2014 to 2017.

While Kahl has previously worked for the Center for a New American Security, another hawkish arms industry-funded think tank, his appointment could be a good sign for the incoming administration’s Iran policy. In 2017, Kahl wrote an op-ed for Foreign Policy defending the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, an agreement Kahl had a role in negotiating.

In 2018, reports claimed that aides to President Trump hired a private spy firm with ties to Israeli intelligence to dig up dirt on Kahl and Obama-era official Ben Rhodes over their role in crafting the nuclear deal.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.