Updated: February 27, 2021
U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday nominated Dr. Kathleen Hicks to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Dr. Colin Kahl as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“Kathleen Hicks and Colin Kahl are respected and trusted advisors to the president-elect with decades of combined experience in national security and keeping Americans safe at the highest levels of government, including within the Department of Defense,” the Biden team said in a statement, adding that they will be partners to Secretary of Defense-designate Lloyd Austin to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s defense strategy.
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“They know the Pentagon inside and out and are well-positioned to take on the full sweep of challenges facing our armed forces, including: Keeping our country safe and secure Playing a key role in executing the logistics associated with COVID-19 vaccine distribution, restoring our alliances supporting and equipping our service members and caring for them and their families, Addressing the accelerating security threat posed by the climate crisis, modernizing our armed forces and preparing for the conflicts of the future and winning the strategic competition for the 21st century,” the statement added.
What they are saying:
President-elect Joe Biden:
“These respected, accomplished civilian leaders will help lead the Department of Defense with integrity and resolve, safeguard the lives and interests of the American people, and ensure that we fulfill our most sacred obligation: to equip and protect those who serve our country, and to care for them and their families both during and after their service. Dr. Kath Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl have the broad experience and crisis-tested judgment necessary to help tackle the litany of challenges we face today, and all those we may confront tomorrow. They will be trusted partners to me, the vice president-elect, and Secretary-designate Austin — as well as our dedicated civilian and military team — as we work to restore responsible American leadership on the world stag
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris:
“As we work to contain this pandemic and reopen our economy, we must uphold our responsibility to keep the American people safe and secure. Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl are dedicated public servants who will be strong civilian voices at the Defense Department, and they have the knowledge and experience to hit the ground running on day one. I look forward to working with them and Secretary-designate Austin to support our service members and their families, rebuild our global alliances and partnerships, and make sure the United States is prepared to address new threats and challenges.”
Secretary-designate Lloyd Austin:
“Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl are public servants to their core — and they have spent their distinguished careers advancing the safety and security of our nation. They share my strong belief that we need empowered civilian voices serving alongside military leaders at the Department of Defense to ensure we are always accountable to the American people. If confirmed, I look forward to working with them to take on the crises we face in the current moment and prepare ourselves for the challenges of the future.”
Read their extended profiles
Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Dr. Kathleen Hicks is the Senior Vice President and Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A trusted advisor to President-elect Joe Biden with decades of national security and foreign policy experience, Dr. Hicks currently leads the Biden-Harris Transition’s Defense Agency Review Team to ensure the Department of Defense is ready on day one to keep American families safe and secure.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, she served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces and was confirmed by the Senate to serve as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. She was a career civil servant in the Pentagon for more than a decade, where she rose through the ranks from Presidential Management Intern to the Senior Executive Service. She is the recipient of distinguished service awards from three Secretaries of Defense and a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and received the DOD Senior Professional Women’s Association Excellence in Leadership Award.
Dr. Hicks is a Donald Marron Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, and earned a master’s degree and PhD from the University of Maryland and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.
Dr. Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Dr. Colin Kahl is currently a Co-Director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, a Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a professor of political science at Stanford University. A trusted, long-time national security advisor to President-elect Biden, Dr. Kahl is also a Strategic Advisor at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and served as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Biden from 2014-2017. Dr. Kahl began his career in government as an action officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and later served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East from 2009-2011.
Dr. Kahl has played a lead role in the development and implementation of the Pentagon’s strategy and policy, including for a responsible drawdown and transition in Iraq, countering Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and destabilizing activities, and strengthening the defense relationship with Israel.
Dr. Kahl was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. He earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a PhD from Columbia University.