Aspiring Yodas: Apply to Fill Andy Marshall’s Shoes on USAJOBS


On his last day, Andy Marshall left work early. Yesterday, people gathered to watch the Director of the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) take his last walk out of the Pentagon as a civil servant. Marshall walked down the A ring, down a stairwell, and out through the River Entrance, marking the end of a 42-year career as one of the most influential employees in the history of the Department of Defense.

Marshall was first appointed under President Richard Nixon and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger in 1973 and was re-appointed by ten secretaries of defense.

And his successor will have to apply on USAJOBS.

That’s right. The man or woman who will fill the shoes of the Pentagon’s Yoda will have to endure the U.S. government’s frustrating and cumbersome jobs website. USAJOBS is familiar to most people who have applied for a federal government job in the last 12 years. Even though it was launched in 2003, it looks like it was designed in the 1990s. And, while there is no way of measuring this, I am willing to bet it is one of the most cursed-at websites in the United States.

USAJOBS is accepting applications to be the next Director of the Office of Net Assessment through February 2. The position is in the Senior Executive Service (SES) and will pay somewhere between $121,957 and $183,300.00 a year.

Marshall himself never had a PhD and there is no educational requirement for the position. His replacement will merely be expected to “develop assessments that compare the standings, trends, and future prospects of U.S. military capability and military potential with that of other countries,” represent the Secretary of Defense all over town, and execute “a variety of assignments that are high priority, sensitive, and significant to the Administration.”

Marshall once said, “I think my major achievement is the training or impact I’ve had on people who have come through the office.” Many of these people, the alumni of what some of them call St. Andrew’s Prep, will likely apply to take the reins at ONA. But someone in the machinery of the Defense Department may decide the position should not be filled by an ONA alumnus. Who are some of the likely candidates? I have not asked any of them about this and haven’t tried to find out from anyone else if they will be applying so this is really just my best guess (in alphabetical order):

  • Tom Ehrhard is currently serving as Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. Ehrhard has also served in senior advisory positions with the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He likely worked on ONA projects during his years at Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a bastion for many St. Andrew’s Prep alumni. He wrote his PhD dissertation at SAIS on unmanned aerial vehicles in the U.S. military. Before CSBA, he retired from the Air Force as a colonel. As an Air Force officer, Ehrhard was Andy Marshall’s military assistant.
  • Jerry Hendrix is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). He retired from the Navy as a captain after a strong career with great assignments. As an officer, he worked at ONA, served as the Director and Designated Federal Officer of the Secretary of the Navy’s Advisory Panel, and became the Director of Naval History. He earned his PhD at my beloved King’s College London War Studies Department.
  • Kathleen Hicks is the Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she also serves as the Kissinger Chair. She served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces. Before that, she was at CSIS and before that she had a 13 year career in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a civil servant. She isn’t an alumnus of St. Andrew’s Prep, but she knows OSD, where ONA is nested.
  • Andrew Hoehn is the senior vice president for research and analysis at the RAND Corporation. This is only his most recent of other executive positions at RAND. He has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, as well as Principal Director for Strategy and director for requirements in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Hoehn has taught at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and SAIS. He is on the board of advisors for CNAS and the board of visitors at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
  • Maren Leed is a senior adviser to the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at CSIS, where she had previously been a fellow. She did a stint as a senior adviser to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Leed has also worked at RAND and as a special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2005-2008. Unlike most of these other contenders, she worked on Capitol Hill for years as a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and before that worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She has a PhD from the RAND Graduate School.
  • Thomas G. Mahnken is the Jerome Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Strategy at the Naval War College. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning from 2006 to 2009. Mahnken had a host of other responsibilities after that, including serving as staff director for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel. In addition to serving at the high ranks of government on major strategic issues, he is an accomplished scholar. He serves as the editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies and has written several books, including a few that fall right in the ONA wheelhouse. He worked at ONA from 1992 to 1994 and has since stayed very involved as an alumni of St. Andrew’s Prep. Mahnken is also a Navy Reserve intelligence officer with service in Iraq, Bahrain, and Kosovo. He earned his PhD from SAIS.
  • Andrew D. May is currently the Associate Director of ONA. Some years ago, he also wrote an intellectual history of ONA. May worked on ONA projects at SAIC for a number of years, producing reports such as “Drawing on the Nuclear Age” and joined ONA staff as a government employee in 2005. He wrote his PhD dissertation on strategic thought at the RAND Corporation.
  • David Ochmanek is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development. Before taking this position, he was a senior defense analyst and director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program for Project Air Force at the RAND Corporation, where he has spent a great deal of his career. In the early years of the Clinton administration, Ochmanek served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. Before he joined RAND for the first time, he was a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department in the 1980s and before that, an Air Force officer. Ochmanek goes back with Marshall and ONA, having chaired a Revolution in Military Affairs working group that Marshall sat on in the early 1990s.
  • Peter W. Singer is another intriguing candidate who is not an alumnus of St. Andrew’s Prep. Singer is Strategist and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, founder of NeoLuddite, a technology advisory firm, and the author of many books you have likely read with relevance to the ONA mission, including Wired for War and Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. He is also a member of the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy. Singer is a veteran of the Brookings Institution. He has not had a major government position, but he has done considerable work for and with the U.S. government as a consultant.
  • Jim Thomas is the Vice President and Director of Studies at CSBA. Before he joined CSBA he was Vice President of Applied Minds, Inc and before that he spent almost a decade and a half in the Department of Defense. While at the Pentagon he served simultaneously as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Resources and Plans and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. Thomas was Paul Nitze’s research assistant and got his start at Los Alamos National Labratory. He is also a former officer in the Naval reserves. At CSBA he has almost certainly done some work for ONA.

Any of these eminent potential candidates that decide to apply for the position will do so through USAJOBS. What hurdles are they likely to face?

I asked you, dear readers, to report your worst experiences with USAJOBS on Twitter. Here are the highlights:

Those of you who seek to become the next Director of ONA, consider yourselves warned of the perils of USAJOBS.


Ryan Evans is editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks.


Photo credit: Michael Baird