Moving Up

By Joe Gould / February 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Counterinsurgency guru and Rhodes scholar John Nagl was named the president of the Center for a New American Security on Feb. 13.

Nagl, author of "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam," takes over for Michèle Flournoy, who recently joined the Obama administration as the under secretary of defense for policy.

“In general, I would like to say that I have big shoes to fill, but that would imply that Michèle has big feet, and I don't want to do that,” Nagl quipped last week in an interview with Inside the Army.

On a more serious note, Nagl called Flournoy, a one-time research professor at the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies, “a wonderful leader, warm, caring, compassionate, and a patriot.”

Nagl plans to continue his advocacy of “strong, pragmatic defense policies,” with an emphasis on the Army's adaptation to irregular warfare, energy security and emerging threats.

As president, Nagl's role will include more contact with the nonprofit's corporate and foundation sponsors. He called the promotion from senior fellow "daunting” but an “extraordinary honor.”

“It's a fantastic place, but I have spreadsheets on my desk now and office diagrams,” said Nagl. “So my job is not just to talk to the press, and talk and speak, but it's also make the books come out in the black at the end of the month. I'm excited, I'm thrilled. It's a huge stretch for me.”

Nagl, who helped author the Army's counterinsurgency field manual, retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel last year.