Barack Obama will enter the White House without any military experience and with a playbook that emphasizes diplomacy, behind a president who waged two wars and presided over some of the largest-ever defense budget increases.
So, how will President Obama be received at the Pentagon? Much depends on his first moves.
One of his senior security advisers, former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), said even though the president-elect has experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he’ll need a strong defense team that works together well.
“He will have to pay a lot of attention to a secretary of defense and the close advisers to the secretary,” Hamilton said. “The whole military, national security establishment will be watching that with care.”
And since the military is trained to follow orders, insiders say it is receptive to the change of command.
The military needs to be ready to offer its advice while scrupulously avoiding any attempt to shape the agenda, said a senior defense official familiar with the transition. “It is to everyone’s benefit to shorten the learning curve for whoever is coming in,” he said, especially because this is the first wartime transition since 1968.