As I mentioned yesterday, Jack Reed won’t be President Obama’s next secretary of defense – the job is going to CIA Director Leon Panetta. Over at the CIA, Panetta will be replaced by General David Petraeus, who carried out President Bush’s surge in Iraq and is currently in charge of the military campaign in Afghanistan.
Thanks to his defense-policy cred, though, Reed has popped up a few times today in stories out of Washington reporting on the changes inside Obama’s national security team (which also includes Rhode Island native Tom Donilon).
The most interesting quote is probably the one Reed gave to The New York Times for its story describing the choices of Panetta and Petreaus as another sign of how the roles of soldiers and spies have become blurred over the past decade:
A succession of wars has strained the ranks of both the Pentagon and the C.I.A., and the United States has come to believe that many of its current enemies are best fought with timely intelligence rather than overwhelming military firepower.
These factors have pushed military and intelligence operatives more closely together in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“In the field, there is a blurring of the mission,” said Senator Jack Reed, a senior Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who served as an officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. “Military operations can buy time to build up local security forces, but intelligence is the key to operations and for anticipating your adversary.”
(The Times’ Caucus blog ran an old picture of Reed with Petreaus, too.)
Then in The Washington Post, Reed offered a favorable comparison between Panetta and outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates – who stayed on when Obama succeeded Bush due in no small part to Reed’s efforts:
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also likened Panetta to Gates. “They’re both thoughtful, serious individuals who are committed to public service and who ask the right questions,” Reed said in a telephone interview.
Reed said the Senate would confirm Panetta quickly, despite his limited familiarity with military programs. “The one thing that he has, based on his experience and history, is good judgment,” the senator said. “He doesn’t have to be a master military technologist.”
Reed told The Providence Journal’s reporter in Washington, John Mulligan, that both personnel picks were good ones, because of Panetta’s expertise on intelligence and budgets and Petreaus’ knowledge of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan:
As CIA chief, “Leon has operational knowledge of intelligence worldwide that is very critical at this juncture,” Reed said, referring to such military commitments as the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the completion of operations in Iraq and the U.S.-European involvement in the Libyan conflict.
Rhode Island Democrat Reed added that Panetta’s experience as former President Bill Clinton’s budget chief will be valuable “at a time when one of his main challenges as secretary of defense” will be to curb military spending. …
Reed, a former Army officer who is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Petraeus “a superb professional with a great intellect and great character” who already has a deep understanding of intelligence issues from his experience as U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reed also pointed out to Mulligan that he was “always accurate” when he said he had no personal interest in taking the helm at the Pentagon.
The last quote isn’t from Reed but rather about him, and it ran in Politico:
Members of Congress, even prominent Republicans, hailed Panetta’s nomination, but some defense experts think his ability to persuade GOP lawmakers to accept painful cuts could be exaggerated. “If you want to cut the defense budget, the technical accounting side is in some ways simpler than the political side,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think Panetta buys you that much by way of the politics of cutting the defense budget. … There are a lot of people I can think of — Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman … Jack Reed — who would have more credibility on assuring hawks that cuts are being done carefully.”