Jump to content

Robert O. Work

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert O. Work
Official portrait, 2014
32nd United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
In office
May 1, 2014 – July 14, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
SecretaryAsh Carter
Jim Mattis
Preceded byAsh Carter
Succeeded byPatrick M. Shanahan
31st United States Under Secretary of the Navy
In office
May 19, 2009 – March 22, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDionel M. Aviles
Succeeded byJanine A. Davidson
Personal details
Robert Orton Work

(1953-01-17) January 17, 1953 (age 71)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (BS)
University of Southern California (MS)
Naval Postgraduate School (MS)
Johns Hopkins University (MPA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Marine Corps
Years of service1974–2001
Rank Colonel

Robert Orton Work (born January 17, 1953[1]) is an American national security professional who served as the 32nd United States Deputy Secretary of Defense for both the Obama and Trump administrations from 2014 to 2017.[2] Prior to that, Work was the United States Under Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2013, and before that served as a colonel in the United States Marine Corps; Work retired in 2001 and worked as a civilian at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and the George Washington University in various positions relating to military and strategic study.[3] From 2013 to 2014, he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). After his time as Deputy Secretary of Defense, he went on to serve on the board of Raytheon.[4] As of October 2023, he serves on the Special Competitive Studies Project's board of advisors.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Work was born in Charlotte, North Carolina.[6] He attended the University of Illinois and earned a B.S. in Biology. Work later earned an M.S. in Systems Management from the University of Southern California; an M.S. in Space System Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School; and a master's degree in International Policy from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Military career[edit]

Work's military service began while he was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, where he was a member of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant of the United States Marine Corps in September 1974.

Work spent 27 years in the Marines, holding a variety of positions. He commanded an artillery battery, then an artillery battalion. He rose to become base commander of Camp Fuji; the first head of the Marine Corps' Strategic Initiatives Group, a small analytical group that provided advice directly to the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and, in his highest military posting, as Military Assistant and Special Aide to United States Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig. In 1997–1998, he attended MIT Seminar XXI.[7] Work's rank when he retired from the Marines in 2001 was colonel.

Civilian career[edit]

He joined the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) as a senior fellow for maritime affairs. He later became the CSBA's vice president for strategic studies. He also took a position as an adjunct professor at George Washington University, teaching defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces. During this period, Work wrote and spoke extensively on naval and marine strategy. He also directed and analyzed war games for the Office of Net Assessment and for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He participated in the Quadrennial Defense Review in 2006. Work's work has focused on defense strategy; proposals to restructure the Department of Defense; and maritime affairs.

Under Secretary of the Navy[edit]

Flag of the Under Secretary of the Navy

During the presidential transition of Barack Obama, Work was a member of the Department of Defense Transition Team, focusing on the transition at the United States Department of the Navy. President Barack Obama nominated Work as Under Secretary of the Navy and Work was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 19, 2009.

Work has criticized former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for assuming that the United States would always have an advantage in guided weapons and, as such, be able to quickly defeat any foe.[8]

In July 2011, Work called into question the navy's plans for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, asking if the numbers or types could be reduced in favor of more unmanned systems.[9]

In 2012, after submitting a budget request that reduced submarine construction, Work said that only a submarine could operate in the Taiwan Strait during a conflict with China.[10][11]

In 2013, the Center for a New American Security announced that Work would be their new CEO as of April 22, 2013.[12][13]

Deputy Secretary of Defense[edit]

Flag of the United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
Adm. John M. Richardson, Sec. Ray Mabus, Deputy Sec. Work, and Gen. Robert Neller at the 117th Army-Navy Game in Dec. 2016.

On February 7, 2014, President Obama nominated Work to become Deputy Secretary of Defense.[14][15]

In October 2014, Deputy Secretary Work instructed the Defense Business Board to hire consultants from McKinsey & Company to identify wasteful spending.[16] McKinsey discovered DoD was spending $134 billion, 23% of its total budget, on back-office work, and that the back-office bureaucracy staff of over one million people was nearly as great as the number of active duty troops.[16] On January 22, 2015, the board then voted to recommend adoption of McKinsey's five-year plan to cut $125 billion in waste.[16]

However, after Secretary Chuck Hagel was replaced by Ash Carter the next month, Deputy Secretary Work expressed his concerns that any gain from savings achieved would then be removed from the defense budget by Congress.[16] Under Secretary Frank Kendall III argued that he could not achieve any efficiencies and, instead, that he needed to hire 1,000 more staff.[16] Secretary Carter then replaced the board chairman, classified the McKinsey results as secret, and removed the report from public websites.[16]

When James Mattis became defense secretary in January 2017, he asked Work to remain as deputy in order to complete several tasks, including preparing an amendment for additional funding in fiscal year 2017 and preparing the fiscal year 2018 budget for submittal in May 2017. This may have marked the first time in history when the top three posts at the Pentagon – secretary, deputy secretary, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs – were held by Marines.[17]

National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence[edit]

From 2019[18] to 2021, Work co-chaired the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence with Eric Schmidt.[19][20]

Awards and accolades[edit]

On March 21, 2013, Robert Work was presented with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Department of the Navy's highest award for civilians.[citation needed]

At a farewell ceremony in the Pentagon's auditorium on January 13, 2017, outgoing Defense Secretary Carter pinned Work with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Pentagon's highest award for a civilian.[17]

In December 2019 Work was presented with the Swedish Royal Order of the Polar Star by defense minister Peter Hultqvist.[21]

Boards & Fellowships[edit]

  • In October 2017, Work joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as a Senior Fellow.[22]
  • In June 2020, Work joined as Chairman of the Board of SparkCognition Government Systems (SGS).
  • In June 2020, Govini announced the appointment of Work as its chairman of the board.[23]

Criticism of Google[edit]

After retiring as Deputy Defense Secretary, Work in 2018 criticized Google and its employees for, in his view, stepping into a moral hazard for themselves as not continuing Pentagon's artificial intelligence project while helping China's AI technology that could be used against the United States in a conflict. He described Google as hypocritical, given it has opened an AI center in China and said "[a]nything that’s going on in the AI center in China is going to the Chinese government and then will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese military. I didn’t see any Google employee saying, ‘Hmm, maybe we shouldn't do that.'"[24][25][26]

Recent publications[edit]


Can the US compete with China? Not without strong patent rights. The Hill, (co-authored with Rama Elluru)[27]


  1. ^ "Nominations Before the Senate Armed Service Committee, First Session, 111th Congress". Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Robert O. Work | U.S. Department of Defense Biography". U. S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  3. ^ This story was written Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon Burns; Defense Media Activity-Navy. "Navy Says Farewell to Under Secretary".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Robert O. Work | Pentagon Revolving Door". Project On Government Oversight. 19 July 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Who We Are". SCSP. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  6. ^ "S. HRG. 113–611" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  7. ^ Art, Robert (1 September 2015). "From the Director: September, 2015". MIT Seminar XXI. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Find Alumni". MIT Seminar XXI. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  8. ^ "Budget Cuts and New Ways of Doing Business Await the Marine Corps – Blog".
  9. ^ Sweetman, Bill. "New Threat To F-35 Joint Strike Fighter." Aviation Week, September 1, 2011.
  10. ^ Parsons, Dan. "Navy Leaders Frustrated by Littoral Combat Ship Naysayers." Archived 24 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine National Defense Magazine, April 19, 2012.
  11. ^ Shapiro, Michael Welles. "Bill to keep steady funding of Virginia-class subs advances." Archived 1 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Daily Press, 26 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Navy Undersecretary Robert Work to step down."
  13. ^ "Robert Work To Head Defense, Security Think Tank". Executive Gov. 21 February 2013.
  14. ^ McLeary, Paul (7 February 2014). "Senate Committee Confirms Work's Nomination for Pentagon No. 2 Spot". defensenews.com. Gannett Government Media. Archived from the original on 7 February 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  15. ^ Garamone, Jim (7 February 2014). "Obama Nominates Work as Next Deputy Defense Secretary". www.defense.gov. American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Craig Whitlock; Bob Woodward (5 December 2016). "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste". The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  17. ^ a b Sisk, Richard (1 February 2017). "Three Marines Leading Pentagon Staying Put for Now". Military.com. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  18. ^ "National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Initial Report" (PDF). 31 July 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  19. ^ Shead, Sam (2 March 2021). "U.S. is 'not prepared to defend or compete in the A.I. era,' says expert group chaired by Eric Schmidt". CNBC. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  20. ^ "AI commission sees 'extraordinary' support to stand up tech-focused service academy". Federal News Network. 2 March 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  21. ^ Försvarsdep (9 December 2019). "Robert O. Work, fd biträdande försvarsminister, förlänas Nordstjärneorden för arbetet med att fördjupa försvarssamarbetet mellan Sverige och USA.pic.twitter.com/JmDuF8GQQE". @ForsvarsdepSv (in Swedish). Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  22. ^ "Robert Work Named Johns Hopkins APL Senior Fellow - ExecutiveBiz". blog.executivebiz.com. 4 October 2017. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Govini Announces the Appointment of Hon. Robert O. Work as Chairman of the Board". www.businesswire.com. 1 June 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  24. ^ "Former US Defense Official Says Google Has Stepped Into a 'Moral Hazard'". Voice of America. 26 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Where in the World Is Larry Page?". Bloomberg.com. 13 September 2018.
  26. ^ "The Pentagon must modernize before it's too late". Washington Post. 17 September 2018.
  27. ^ Work, Robert; Elluru, Rama (24 October 2023). "Can the US compete with China? Not without strong patent rights". The Hill. Retrieved 24 October 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by