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Army's No. 2 civilian tapped for Saudi ambassadorship

Nov. 8, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
President Obama has nominated Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal to become ambassador to Saudi Arabia. (File photo)
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President Obama has nominated Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal to become ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The White House announcement Wednesday comes as tensions mount between the two countries over Obama administration policy toward Syria, Iran and Egypt.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Westphal served as acting Army secretary from March to May 2011, as the chancellor of the University of Maine System and in several posts at The New School University in New York City. He also has congressional experience, having worked as an aide on the House budget committee, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.

Westphal had been mentioned as a replacement for Army Secretary John McHugh, who is expected to step down at some point during the president’s second term, though the nomination makes that unlikely.

The Army’s budget, diversity in the ranks, business transformation and energy efficiency fall under Westphal’s authority. In a 2012 interview with Army Times, Westphal worried as sequestration loomed that it would “unravel” the Army’s positive impact on economic development.

More recently, Westphal’s disagreement with a plan to put thousands of soldiers in base operation roles in place of contractors was reflected in an Army memo obtained by Army Times.

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