Acting Pentagon policy head Karlin announces departure


WASHINGTON — Mara Karlin, who since this summer has performed the duties of Pentagon under secretary of defense for policy, announced today she’s stepping down.

The announcement continues the revolving door of officials performing top policy roles within the Defense Department, amid Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) hold on Pentagon nominees. Tuberville ended his blockade last week for all but the highest-tier of roles still vacant — including the top policy job.

In late July, the administration nominated Derek Chollet, a former Pentagon official now serving in the State Department, to fill the position, which has been empty since Colin Kahl left government earlier that month. Chollet appeared before the Senate Armed Services committee for a hearing on his nomination in late September, but hasn’t been confirmed.

Karlin has worked across the Defense Department since President Joe Biden took office in 2021. In her current role, she focused on writing and then implementing the 2022 National Defense Strategy, which tagged China and Russia as America’s “pacing” and “acute” threats. She also helped shepherd the AUKUS agreement, a wide-ranging security pact with Australia and the United Kingdom.

After a sabbatical with family, Karlin will transition to academia — a home for many who have worked in top Pentagon policy roles in the past, including Kahl. A statement announcing her departure did not specify where in academia she was heading.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Melissa Dalton will step into Karlin’s job next week.

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.

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