Michele Flournoy, the former undersecretary for policy and one of the founders of the Center for a New American Security, recruited Chollet to the Pentagon, just as she has other current Senate-confirmed Defense officials. "Those relationships—they matter a lot in government," Chollet said. For Chollet, that's an aphorism to build a career on. A Lincoln, Neb., native and a Cornell grad who pursued a Ph.D. in political science at Columbia but left early—he says he was "ABD," all-but-dissertation—Chollet, 42, helped former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher with research for their memoirs. He also assisted the late Richard Holbrooke with his book on the Dayton peace process in Bosnia. His most recent position was at the White House, where had the title senior director for strategic planning with the National Security Council. It's a position that dovetailed with his portfolio at the Pentagon, where he travels with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel frequently and has responsibility over strategic partnerships with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The top priority is maintaining the Pentagon's partnerships, but with a focus on the long-term. "What we try to do is not just take account of our work but also to sketch a path forward and try to put in train some things that might not come to fruition for a couple of years," he said.