Pentagon podium gets new faces
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with Jt. Chiefs Chmn Gen. Mike Mullen at the Pentagon Photo by: Department of Defense
July 19th, 2011
06:41 PM ET

Pentagon podium gets new faces

Remember the old jingle - double your pleasure, double your fun?

That’s what Pentagon reporters were thinking today with the announcement of not just one new briefer – but two.

The former press secretary, Geoff Morrell, the natty dresser and occasionally combative press secretary, stepped aside after his boss, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, departed at the end of June.

Now the new Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is bringing his public affairs aide over from the CIA, George Little.

And Navy Captain John Kirby, now the spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, will move over to become a second public affairs spokesman when Mullen retires this fall.

So when the lights come on in the briefing room you will see either Little, or Kirby or maybe both at the podium, unless it is their boss, Doug Wilson. As Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Wilson runs the whole shop and made the announcement that both Little and Kirby are now part of the team.

“Two outstanding communicators are going to be joining us,” Wilson said Tuesday at the Pentagon.

“This is a new template than we had with Secretary Gates,” Wilson explained. “But I am very pleased and confident this will provide the Secretary and our Department with the experience and expertise of two very respected individuals on military and national security issues across the spectrum.”

Apparently they will take turns briefing journalists. “They will rotate at the podium and I will go sometimes,” Wilson said.

Little started Tuesday. Kirby will take on his new duties more slowly as he continues to work for Mullen. Little, who of course comes over from the intelligence world where public briefings are rare and “no comment” is common, will have the title of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense/Press Secretary. Kirby will be Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense/Spokesman and Director of Media Operations.

Wilson brushed aside any potential problems of having a briefer in uniform at a Pentagon facing questions that may have political answers – an area where the military defers to civilians. “We’re well aware of that issue,” Wilson said. “And John will never be put in position as someone in uniform who will have to be briefing on policy or political issues.” Long-time Pentagon journalists have mulled that over.

And will both men have Panetta’s ear and vice versa? “Either or both will have complete situational awareness with the Secretary,” Wilson said.

As to the daily off-camera question sessions with the Pentagon press corps known as the gaggle. The will take turns. Meanwhile spokesman, Col. Dave Lapan, who “gaggles” most days, will keep going into September. “We will have more to say about his future,” Wilsons said, while praising Lapan.

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Filed under: Military • Panetta
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