The Cable

Nagl stepping down as president of CNAS

Former Army officer, author, and counterinsurgency guru John Nagl will leave his post as president of the Center for a New American Security to become a professor at the Naval Academy.

"I'm sad to leave CNAS in a full time role, enormously proud of what we've done here, and pretty confident that the team here will continue to do a great job here without me," Nagl told The Cable in a Monday interview.

He said he will remain as a non-resident senior fellow at CNAS and continue to run its Next Generation Leaders Program. He will teach classes and seminars at the Naval Academy, and also start work on a new book looking back at the last ten years of American warfare.

"I wasn't looking to move. Leaving the presidency of CNAS after three years was a very hard decision, but I love teaching more than anything," Nagl said. "It's a great opportunity to do my favorite part of this job, step back from the administrative role, and recharge the batteries a little bit."

His first class, which begins this week, is called, "History of Modern Counterinsurgency," and will be informed by his doctoral thesis and book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Nagl said that the new defense strategy review announced by President Barack Obama last week was an acknowledgement that the counterinsurgency-heavy era of warfare that U.S. troops have been engaged in may be coming to an end.

"The president's announcement on [Jan. 5] did mark an inflection point in the last decade of wars. We're thinking hard about how to capture the lessons of the last decade. So it's a good time for me to reflect on what I've learned and seen and capture some of those lessons," said Nagl. "One of the things I'm sure of is there will be future counterinsurgency wars, and it would be helpful if we started them better."

Nagl had been rumored to be in contention for the job of assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and low intensity conflict (SOLIC), but that nomination never materialized.

CNAS was founded in 2008 by current Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy. After Campbell and Flournoy entered the Obama administration, they handed over the reins to Nagl and current CEO Nate Fick.

Recently, CNAS has picked up several Democratic foreign policy heavyweights, including Ike Skelton, former House Armed Services Committee chairman; Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department policy planning director; and Rich Verma, former assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl also returned to CNAS this month following his departure from the Pentagon.

Flournoy herself is leaving the Pentagon at the end of the month, but there's no word on whether or not she will return to CNAS. In fact, the think tank can't even discuss the issue with her due to ethics rules.

But Nagl told us that Flournoy is welcome to throw her name in the ring as CNAS searches for a new president.

"We're looking for somebody who is interested and engaged on national security policy, and has some administrative and fundraising chops," he said. "After she catches up on her sleep, if she's interested in kicking the tires, we welcome her interest."

In a Monday press release, the Naval Academy said that Nagl will serve as the Naval Academy History Department's first Minerva research fellow. The position is part of the Defense Department's Minerva Initiative program, a Pentagon-sponsored initiative launched by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2008.

"The goal of the Minerva Initiative is to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.," the release stated. "Nagl's primary responsibility as the Minerva Chair at the academy will be to investigate the influences of culture upon warfare."

The Cable

Five things you should know about new White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew

President Barack Obama announced today that White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley will resign and be replaced by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director and former Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew. In his remarks today, Obama touted Lew's experience on both domestic and foreign policy matters.

"Jack has fought for an America where hard work and responsibility pay off, a place where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody does their fair share and everybody plays by the same rules. And that belief is reflected in every decision that Jack makes," Obama said. "Jack also has my confidence on matters outside the borders. Before he served at OMB for me, Jack spent two years running the extremely complex and challenging budget and operations process for Secretary [Hillary] Clinton at the State Department, where his portfolio also included managing the civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And over the last year, he has weighed in on many of the major foreign policy decisions that we've made."

Here are five things you may not know about Lew, a man who has been working in policy circles since starting as a congressional aide in 1983:

Defense budgets: Lew is the key official behind the Obama administration's two major decisions to cut defense spending. Last April, he managed the process that led to a last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling, which resulted in the Pentagon's six-month review to find $450 billion in savings over ten years, compared to defense spending projections by the Congressional Budget Office. That deal also included the sequestration trigger, which looks set to force the Pentagon to find another $600 billion in savings because the bipartisan "super committee" couldn't strike a deal.

"Make no mistake: the sequester is not meant to be policy. Rather, it is meant to be an unpalatable option that all parties want to avoid," Lew wrote at the time. As chief of staff, he will have an increased role in working with Congress to find a way around those cuts. He has also forcefully argued that Congress should not cut more from the federal budget than absolutely necessary.

Afghanistan: During his time at the State Department, Lew was the senior official responsible for the civilian surge in Afghanistan, which accompanied the administration's 2009 military surge there. That increase, which added over 1,000 civilians from across the U.S. government to the Afghanistan mission, is slated to wind down this year along with the military surge. But as the United States shifts its focus in Afghanistan from military to civilian involvement, Lew might be the man in the government who knows that issue best.

His religion: Throughout Lew's government career, he has maintained his commitment to Orthodox Judaism -- including the rules about not working on the Sabbath, which stretches from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. During his time at State, he observed the Sabbath religiously and refused to work during those hours.

But if there was a real emergency at the White House, Lew could decide to break the Sabbath. He reportedly did that once when serving as OMB director for President Bill Clinton. After refusing to take an urgent phone call from Clinton, as the story goes, Clinton said over the speakerphone "I know it is the Sabbath, but this is urgent. G-d would understand." Lew consulted with his rabbi, who told him that it's okay to answer the phone on the Sabbath when the president calls urgently.

Ethics: Lew is regarded by his peers as above reproach on ethical matters, but he did face one controversy when he reentered the White House as OMB director. In 2010, Lew came under fire because of a $944,578 bonus he took from Citigroup, where he was chief operating officer of Citigroup's Alternative Investments from 2006. Lew had already disclosed a $1.1 million compensation package covering his Citigroup work in 2007, but the amount of the second bonus wasn't disclosed until much later.

A State Department official defended Lew at the time as a man whose reputation for following ethics rules was well known. "If this city and government were filled with Jack Lews, we wouldn't need ethics rules," the official said, "because, like Hebrew National, Jack holds himself accountable to a higher authority."

His replacement: One thing nobody knows about Jack Lew is who will replace him at OMB. The president's 2012 budget request is being finalized right now, and its February release will kick start a whole season of squabbling and negotiating with Congress in what promises to be a partisan election year. Jeffrey Zients served as the acting director of the office before Lew was confirmed. Since then, Heather Higginbottom, former deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Counsel, was confirmed as OMB's deputy director. Given the recent GOP outrage over Obama's controversial recess appointment nomination of Richard Cordray to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, confirming a new OMB director won't be an easy sell any time soon.