Robert Wilkie, a senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, is President Donald Trump’s pick to be under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The White House announced Trump’s intention to nominate Wilkie on Wednesday.
Wilkie, who is from Fayetteville, served in Trump’s transition office. He has worked as senior adviser to Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, since 2015.
“Robert Wilkie has been indispensable as my senior adviser, and his nomination is a crystal clear indication that Secretary of Defense (James) Mattis is committed to choosing the highest caliber people possible to help him lead the Pentagon. A proud native of Fayetteville, Robert is deeply respected by North Carolina’s military community, and he has worked closely with me over the last three years to help ensure North Carolina’s military installations have the resources and assets they need to serve America’s national security mission,” Tillis said in a statement.
“It’s no surprise that Robert has also served as a valuable resource to other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee because of his unparalleled experience, wisdom, and insight when it comes to military issues and understanding of the challenges facing our men and women in uniform. Robert is the perfect choice to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and I can’t wait to keep working closely with him on behalf of North Carolina and our servicemembers and military families.”
He worked as vice president for strategic initiatives as CH2M Hill, an engineering consulting firm in Washington D.C., from 2010 to 2015. Wilkie was the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs during President George W. Bush’s second term. He is a reserve officer assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg and formerly served in the Navy reserve.
He received the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian award in the department.
Wilkie is a Capitol Hill veteran, having worked for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott from 1997 to 2003. He was executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party before going to work for Lott. Wilkie also served as an aide to former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and former U.S. Rep. David Funderburk. Wilkie unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District in 1996.
Wilkie graduated from Wake Forest University and earned law degrees from Loyola University in New Orleans and Georgetown University. He also holds a master’s degree from the United States Army War College.
Trump also announced his intention to nominate Anthony Kurta of Montana to be Wilkie’s principal deputy. Kurta retired from the Navy as a rear admiral.
Chris Hayes, political director of the NC Chamber, a nonpartisan business organization based in Raleigh, praised Wilkie and his nomination. “His knowledge of the military and his concern for the safety of the US is unparalleled,” Hayes wrote on Twitter.