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2013 Security / Defense Department

James Miller, Undersecretary, Policy

photo of James Kitfield
July 16, 2013

Miller is the Pentagon's third-ranking civilian, and his portfolio touches on virtually all strategic policy matters: nuclear posture, missile defense, cybersecurity, space policy, terrorism, proliferation, the Quadrennial Defense Review, and others. His days tend to be long and eventful: "My job is to provide policy advice to the secretary of Defense on issues that cut across all geographic regions and functional areas, and some dysfunctional areas," Miller says. "I work hard to be driven by our strategic priorities, which at this time are the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region; ongoing instability in the Middle East associated with the Arab Awakening; counterterrorism operations to deal with a metastasizing al-Qaida; and dealing with a cyberdomain that is changing more rapidly than even Moore's Law would suggest." Obama tapped Miller and others in 2009 from the progressive foreign policy think tank Center for a New American Security. Miller, 53, who grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, earned a bachelor's in economics from Stanford University and a master's and Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard. His Washington career began at the House Armed Services Committee in the early 1990s, where he worked for former Chairman (and eventual Defense Secretary) Les Aspin. Then he taught at Duke University. In 1997, Miller became a deputy assistant secretary for requirements, plans, and counter-proliferation policy.

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