Christine Fox to Hold Highest Rank Ever for a Woman at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 19: Director of cost assessment and program evaluation at the Defense Department Christine Fox testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee May 19, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was held to examine the F-35 joint strike fighter program in review of the defense authorization request for FY2012 and the future years defense program. 
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Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 3, 2013, 5:06 p.m.

When Christine Fox takes over as act­ing deputy sec­ret­ary of De­fense on Thursday she’ll be­come the most-seni­or-rank­ing wo­man in the his­tory of the Pentagon.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel an­nounced Tues­day that Fox would come back to the De­fense De­part­ment to suc­ceed Ash Carter, who is step­ping down on Wed­nes­day.

Fox, who is in her late 50s, has been touted as a budget ex­pert, but she also has some ser­i­ous pop-cul­ture cre­den­tials: She served as the in­spir­a­tion for the char­ac­ter Charlie, a ci­vil­ian in­struct­or, in the 1986 movie Top Gun.

Fox stepped down earli­er this year from her po­s­i­tion as dir­ect­or of Cost As­sess­ment and Pro­gram Eval­u­ation in the De­fense De­part­ment. Dur­ing her more than three-and-a-half years in the post, she helped to de­term­ine ways the mil­it­ary could cut spend­ing. She also had a sig­ni­fic­ant hand in the de­part­ment’s Stra­tegic Choices and Man­age­ment Re­view, which out­lined how the Pentagon could meet po­ten­tial up­com­ing budget chal­lenges.

Pres­id­ent Obama made the ap­point­ment after agree­ing that Fox would be an ideal choice to fill the deputy sec­ret­ary’s po­s­i­tion un­til a per­man­ent suc­cessor for Carter is found, Hagel said. He poin­ted to her pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ence as a key reas­on for her se­lec­tion to fill the po­s­i­tion un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion names a per­man­ent suc­cessor to Carter.

“She will be able to help me shape our pri­or­it­ies from day one,” Hagel said, adding, “She knows the in­tric­a­cies of the de­part­ment’s budget, pro­grams, and glob­al op­er­a­tions bet­ter than any­one.”

Fox’s ap­point­ment comes as De­fense, like much of the gov­ern­ment, faces in­creas­ing budget con­straints be­cause of se­quest­ra­tion.

A seni­or De­fense of­fi­cial also poin­ted to Fox’s ex­per­i­ence at CAPE, not­ing that it gives her ex­per­i­ence “not just on budget is­sues, but [also on the] huge port­fo­lio of is­sues “¦ that are go­ing to be sig­ni­fic­ant for the de­part­ment, com­ing up.”

Her pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ence will al­low her to “hit the ground run­ning like no one else can,” the of­fi­cial said, while al­low­ing the de­part­ment to keep its cur­rent seni­or man­age­ment team in place.

After leav­ing the Pentagon, Fox joined the Johns Hop­kins Uni­versity Ap­plied Phys­ics Labor­at­ory as a prin­cip­al tech­nic­al ad­viser in Au­gust. Fox, who is not be­ing con­sidered for the per­man­ent po­s­i­tion, earned a bach­el­or’s de­gree in math­em­at­ics and a mas­ter’s in ap­plied math­em­at­ics at George Ma­son Uni­versity. She spent al­most 30 years climb­ing the ranks at CNA’s Cen­ter for Nav­al Ana­lyses, a gov­ern­ment-fun­ded re­search cen­ter.

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