Who might serve on Romney's national security team?
November 5th, 2012
06:01 AM ET

Who might serve on Romney's national security team?

Economic issues might decide the winner of this week's Presidential election, but pressing national security issues–Iran, terrorism, the Arab spring, the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, to name a few–will require immediate attention. With just a few days to go, the campaigns are tight lipped about who might be in the cabinet to help the president make some weighty decisions. But here is what CNN's national security team is hearing through the grape vine on who President Obama or Governor Romney might be considering for some of the key national security positions:

Also: Who might serve in an Obama second term?

If Mitt Romney is elected the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday, he will have the task of filling an entire presidential cabinet as opposed to President Obama who will likely have less vacancies to fill. Foreign policy analysts say the national team is unique from other cabinet positions in that their agencies work closely together on a daily basis. Those who are picked to be members of the national security team will need to be consensus players with the entire national security team and able to confront difficult situations abroad, while the vast focus of the early days of the administration focused on rejuvenating the nascent economic recovery – a central theme of the Romney campaign. Jamie Fly, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington says it will be "very important" for Romney to pick a team capable to go out and "be effective advocates for America abroad" while Romney and his senior staff focus on the economy at the beginning of the term.

Here is a list of possible candidates for national security positions in a Romney administration that we are hearing from campaign advisors and analysts who are following the situation:


Jim Talent
Currently a national security adviser for the Romney campaign, Talent's name has been floated for the top defense job. Outspoken against military spending cuts and an advocate for Romney's position to expand the military, Talent seems like a natural to lead a Romney agenda at the Pentagon. As a Republican in the House and Senate from 1993-2007, Talent was a member of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and chaired the Sea Power subcommittee in the Senate, another credential Romney would like as he plans to expand the Navy, if elected. Talent holds a fellowship position at the conservative Heritage Foundation policy analysis organization where he specializes in military and welfare reform issues.

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Graham is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and veteran of the active duty Air Force. He sits on some of the most powerful Senate committees and is hawkish on national defense issues. Graham has taken a keen interest in issues involving detainee interrogations. As a senator on the Armed Services panel, he has traveled to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times to get what he calls on-the-ground assessments. There is little doubt Graham would hit the ground running if he got the job, but his selection could depend on whether Romney wants a self-starter as Graham would have many of his own ideas and agendas to push as defense secretary.

Dov Zakheim
As the former Pentagon comptroller under George W. Bush, Zakheim knows how to navigate turbulent budget battles. That knowledge can serve him well under Romney, who has plans to increase the Navy and grow other parts of the military. He also held several Pentagon positions during the Reagan administration. He has had a long career in the private sector as a chief executive. Zakheim is currently a special adviser to the Romney campaign for foreign policy and national security. He has also been mentioned as a possible pick for the No. 2 spot because of his budget prowess.

John Lehman
Also a Romney adviser, Lehman was a Navy secretary during the Reagan administration and a member of the 9/11 commission, which examined what went wrong leading up to the 2001 attacks and recommended steps to prevent future ones. Lehman is the chairman and founding partner of the investment firm J. F. Lehman and Company, and has served on various conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation.


Robert Zoellick
As coordinator of national security transition for the Romney campaign, Zoellick's name comes up often as a possible pick. Zoellick has a long resume in foreign affairs, most recently completing a term leading the World Bank. Prior to that, he was No. 2 at the State Department during the administration of George W. Bush and was U.S. trade representative before that. But Zoellick is seen as too much of a realist and more akin to the foreign policy of former President George H.W. Bush by more hawkish members of the foreign policy establishment. That could figure into the decision if Romney wants to pursue a more muscular diplomatic approach.

Joseph Lieberman
The four term senator and 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee is an Independent who normally caucuses with Democrats. But his independent voting streak in Congress and vocal support for Sen. John McCain's run for the White House in 2008, won him admirers in Republican circles. Often appearing with McCain and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) on the 2008 campaign trail, Lieberman said McCain's strong stance on the war on terror was one of the reasons he supported the Republican ticket. Lieberman is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and serves on the Armed Services Committee. He is retiring from the Senate.

Jon Huntsman
Romney's one-time challenger for the 2012 GOP nomination is mentioned by many as another possible pick. A former governor of Utah, Huntsman accepted President Barack Obama's offer to serve as Ambassador to China – certain to be a country of high importance for the policies of the next administration. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as Ambassador to Singapore and later was deputy U.S. trade representative.

John Bolton
Although his name comes up as a possible selection, Bolton would seem more of an outside shot with a difficult confirmation battle likely. He was Ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush. Before that he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security. He also worked for President George H.W. Bush at the State Department. Bolton’s hawkish foreign policy views did not sit well with some in the second Bush administration – most notably former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Richard Williamson
As a senior foreign policy adviser to Romney, Williamson is a known quantity to the former Massachusetts governor, and frequently takes to the airwaves to defend Romney's statements and positions on foreign policy matters. A lawyer from Chicago, Williamson brings a depth of foreign policy experience to the campaign. He held positions in the State Department for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was the special envoy to Sudan for President George W. Bush as the administration sought to stop the genocide in the Darfur region at the time.

Michael Hayden
The career intelligence officer and four-star general is a Romney campaign adviser. He is quite familiar with running large bureaucracies. Hayden led two of the most critical intelligence agencies, the CIA and the National Security Agency. He also was the first deputy director of national intelligence. The DNI's office was created to better manage the 16 agencies and departments that make up the intelligence community. While at NSA, Hayden oversaw the controversial domestic surveillance program which monitored the communications of people with suspected terrorists overseas. He also defended the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects, saying they helped save American lives. Romney has spoken in favor of using enhanced interrogations but has not said specifically what he would allow. Hayden retired from government in 2009 and is now a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultant organization.

Dan Senor
Senor has been a fixture on the Republican foreign policy establishment going back to his time as the spokesman for the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion. He has advised Romney on issues of foreign policy - mostly focusing on Israel and Iran - since Romney first ran for president in 2008. When Paul Ryan was tapped by Romney to be his running mate, Senor moved over to be Ryan's principal foreign policy adviser and frequently travels with him on the campaign trail.


Cofer Black
The 28-year CIA veteran is referred to as the trusted intelligence adviser for Mitt Romney. Black spent most of his career at the CIA in covert operations. He led the CIA's counterterrorism center at the time of the 9/11 attacks and helped lead the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. The gruff speaking Black once ordered a CIA officer to "Capture bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice." He also served as ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism at the State Department.

After he left government, Black held private industry jobs including a stint at Blackwater Inc, the controversial security firm, which could potentially cause him problems during confirmation hearings if he is nominated.

Michael Hayden (see National Security Advisor)


David Petraeus
Petraeus is expected to stay in the job. The retired four star general had a distinguished 37-year career in the military, helping turn the tide against insurgents while commanding forces in Iraq and then Afghanistan. He has been praised by both sides of the political aisle. He took the helm of the CIA in September 2011 and has kept a low key profile. But Petraeus has seen reputation potentially tarnished by the controversy over the terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in September. Some Republicans have privately said they are disappointed in Petraeus for sticking as long as he did to the initial intelligence assessment that the attack erupted from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video on the web.

If Petraeus were to leave, Cofer Black is the name most often heard as the successor.

Filed under: 2012 Election • Security Brief
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Jesusa Dae


    March 4, 2021 at 9:46 am | Reply
  2. Paul

    Dear eeyor: "...geee, all i see here are rank and file white republicans...for the sake of minorities everywhere in this nation and world...sure hope this guy does not get elected."

    Please note this is not Gov. Romney's list, but a list from CNN.
    One should wonder why CNN would set up such a strawman. No, wait, we really don't need to wonder do we.

    November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
  3. madmax949

    Now isn't this funny not ONE Of these people are Female! ! ! !! Didn't he say he wanted to find a "Binder" of woman to do a job, but yet he doesn't have one woman serving on his team...

    November 6, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  4. camperben

    There is no possible way Lieberman will be appointed. You think Bolton would have a tough conformation? Wait till the turncoat Lieberman is put through the wringer. I doubt the Republicans would appoint him regardless. If a guy will go Benidict Arnold once....its not difficult to imagine him doing it again to you. The only person on that list with any common sense in Huntsman. I dealt with Jim Talent personally as a cop in St Louis. He is very unpredictable and suffers from violent mood swings. I sure hope he is not put anywhere sensitive.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  5. TomGI

    Lieberman is an unregistered agent for Israel so making him SS is tantamount to giving Jerusalem total access to the state department.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  6. eeyore

    ...geee, all i see here are rank and file white republicans...for the sake of minorities everywhere in this nation and world...sure hope this guy does not get elected.

    November 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
    • Paul

      Please note this is not Gov. Romney's list, but a list from CNN.
      One should wonder why CNN would set up such a strawman. No, wait, we really don't need to wonder do we.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
  7. American People

    We'll need all the security we can get under Robme!! That is once he starts a war with Iran (totally unfunded of course!).

    November 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply
    • TomGI

      He's ready to print a trillion or two for the first 2 years. He'll have to give Israel a couple hundred billion to "stay out of it and sit on the sidelines." It's already be negotiated and agreed upon.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply

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