Pentagon’s Little staying, hoping to expand press ops

Pentagon press secretary George Little is staying on as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s spokesman and head of DOD’s massive press operations, Pentagon sources tell the E-Ring – at least, for now.

Little’s fate, along with many civilian senior staffers at the Pentagon, remains somewhat in limbo. Hagel began his tenure on Wednesday and the ex-senator arrived with few staffers in tow looking for top slots – including a spokesman.

But Little and Hagel appear to have bonded well already, and plans remain on the table to expand the Pentagon press shop under Little’s guidance as head of public affairs. Little, Pentagon sources tell us, wants to begin filling a few empty seats in the Pentagon press shop with one or two more supporting players to create a new model for press engagements. Those assistants, the idea goes, would permit the Pentagon to hold additional media engagements, including occasionally standing at the briefing room podium to take questions from reporters, and to conduct daily press gaggles, which are informal on-the-record but off-camera question and answer sessions.

Panetta’s departure has not caused a mass exodus of loyalists from the building, as did the 2011 retirement of Robert Gates and his cabal of Republican holdover staffers from President George W. Bush’s administration. But there are actual empty offices once occupied by public affairs officials in the E-Ring, some unfilled for months amid the turn over from Geoff Morrell's years as Gates’ spokesman, to the dual-spokesteam era of Little and Adm. John Kirby, who now heads Navy public affairs. Currently, Little relies heavily on his assistant press secretary, Carl Woog, and Lt. Col. Steve Warren, who oversees the many desk officers that field reporter questions.

Presumed candidates to cross the river to aid DOD include Marie Harf, who ran press operations for Hagel during his confirmation. Harf was a national security spokeswoman for the Obama campaign last year and previously was a CIA spokeswoman under George Little and Panetta. Other candidates could include Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (ODNI) under James Clapper and a veteran of Pentagon press operations.

Meanwhile, as Hagel's team sets in place in the coming weeks, Little plans on delivering a speech soon about the state of DOD public affairs, the E-Ring has learned. The date and location remain undetermined.

DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released