Defense department official Mara Karlin stepping down for academia

By Jen Krausz on
 December 12, 2023

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Mara Karlin is stepping down at the end of the year to work in academia at a time when Sen. Tommy Tuberbville (R-AL) is still blocking some senior Biden nominees over the administration's violation of the Hyde Amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion services.

Karlin was instrumental in developing President Joe Biden's defense strategy over the years and was praised by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker for her tenure.

“I deeply appreciate Dr. Karlin’s dedication, strategic acumen, and her profound commitment to public service,” Baker said in a statement. “Her contributions significantly strengthened the department’s strategic approach and preparedness for future security challenges. As Dr. Karlin embarks on her next chapter, we wish her the very best and are confident that her impact on national security will continue to resonate for years to come.”

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Melissa Dalton will fill the role in an acting capacity until a new nominee can be confirmed.

What Karlin did

Karlin's departure means the top two positions in DOD’s policy office and the top official in charge of Pentagon strategy will be filled by acting officials until nominees can be confirmed.

In her role, Karlin advised Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on policy strategy, as well as helped with the modernization of U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific and aided in the implementation of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership.

She previously led the department’s relations with nearly 150 countries in Europe including those in NATO, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, Eurasia, and the Western Hemisphere through most of 2021.

The blockade

While Tuberville lifted his blockade of more than 400 nominees last week, he continues to block some of the highest nominations as a way to register his disapproval of Biden's violations of the Hyde Amendment.

Tuberville had kept the blockade in months to protest the Biden administration's policy of paying for pregnant women in states that outlaw or severely restrict abortion to travel to other states and get abortions using taxpayer money.

He was not able to get the policy changed and eventually had to back down because even members of his own party were beginning to question the country's military readiness.

"We didn't get as much out of it as we wanted," he said of his blockade.

"The only opportunity you got to get people on the left up here to listen to you in the minority is to put a hold on something, and that's what we did," he said. "I think we opened our eyes a little bit. We didn't get the win that we wanted. We've still got a bad policy."

Tuberville is hoping Republicans will rescind the policy as part of their annual defense spending bill, but there's no telling whether Biden would sign a bill with such a provision--if it even gets through the Senate.

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