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.