WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has named Christine Fox, the former chief program and budget analyst with the Department of Defense, to serve as the agency's acting deputy secretary, while the administration is searching for a permanent replacement for Ashton Carter, who is to leave the job of Deputy Secretary of Defense Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the decision Tuesday, saying Fox will take over as acting deputy secretary of defense starting Thursday.
The move was described by Marine Times, a military news outlet, as "unprecedented," highlighting the pressure the Pentagon is facing as it readies itself for a fight in Congress over defense budget in the coming months.
Fox, who until recently served as the Pentagon's director of cost assessment and program evaluation, "helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty, " and will be able to help shaping the Pentagon's "priorities from day one because she knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations better than anyone," said a statement issued by Hagel.
As the Senate confirmation process for Carter's replacement will take months, it is highly unlikely a replacement would be available before the end of the year, according to the Marine Times. Bringing back Fox, a seasoned budget expert, allows other senior defense officials to remain in their roles at a pivotal time as the Pentagon braces for a fight in Congress as next year's budget is set to be voted upon in the remainder of this year's session.
Moreover, If Congress cannot reach a deal before Jan. 15, a second round of sequester, or automatic budget cuts, will kick in, which means a cutback of another 55 billion U.S. dollars from defense budget. The first round of sequester cuts became effective in March, slashing more than 40 billion dollars from the Pentagon' s budget of the 2013 fiscal year, which ended in September.
Carter is highly regarded and widely praised as effective in Washington. He played an important role in his job as the Pentagon 's number two, when Hagel, a career legislator, took over in February at the helm of one of the federal government's biggest agencies amid budget cuts and priority reassessment.
Fox left the Pentagon in June to become a senior adviser to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, but remained an unpaid consultant to Carter, allowing her to keep current on defense issues.