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Kathleen Hicks MPM '93 confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Defense

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Kathleen Hicks

The Senate confirmed Kathleen Hicks MPM ’93 as deputy defense secretary, the second-highest in the Pentagon. Hicks is the first woman confirmed by the Senate to hold the position.

“I [am] proud to put another crack in the glass ceiling of the department I've spent most of my adult life serving,” said Hicks during her confirmation hearing.

Hicks identified a number of challenges ahead of her, including helping to facilitate COVID-19 response efforts under the direction of President Biden. She mentioned China as a pacing challenge for the Department of Defense (DOD), and seeks to increase the speed and scale of innovation in the armed forces with the help of congress, public and private partnerships. 

Hicks also identified issues affecting the health and quality of the Department of Defense’s force both military and civilian, such as mental health, systemic racism, housing, childcare and food insecurities. She emphasized the need to root out violent extremism, systematic racism and harassment, which she described as inhibitors to readiness.

“This is a matter of readiness. We will not be able to attract and retain the world's finest force, one that represents our democracy, if we cannot hold accountable those who threaten its viability from within,” Hicks said.

Hicks formerly served as senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. With this confirmation, Hicks returns to the Department of Defense, where she previously served as the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and the deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans & forces during the Obama administration. 

"I [am returning] to a department where over much of the past three decades, I worked alongside dedicated women and men, civilian and military,” said Hicks. “I could not be prouder of serving with them once more."

Hicks is among a growing number of SPP alumni and faculty who have held senior positions in security policy. The School of Public Policy has been home to many trailblazing women in the field, starting with Catherine Kelleher, founding faculty member of the School, founding director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and founder of Women in International Security (WIIS).

Other noteworthy alumnae from the early years of the School's history include:

  • Joan Rohlfing MPM ‘86, president and chief operating officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and member of the DOD Threat Reduction Advisory Committee
  • Christine Wormuth MPP ‘95, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center and previous under secretary of defense for policy at the DOD
  • Kori Schake MPM ‘87, M.A. '89, Ph.D. '96, director of Foreign and Defense Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, previous director for defense strategy and requirements on the National Security Council and deputy director for policy planning in the U.S. State Department
  • Ellen McCarthy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research from January 2019 through January 2021

The School has established the Catherine Kelleher Fellowship for International Security Studies to prepare current students to become the next generation of innovative leaders and barrier breakers in this field.


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Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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