Pentagon employee, 92, is back after shutdown, but job is on shaky ground

Posted at 10:47 AM, Oct 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-21 10:47:02-04

(CNN) – When the government shutdown ended and thousands of civilians came back to work at the Pentagon, one employee’s return wasn’t surprising at all — he’s been coming to work for 40 years.

Andrew Marshall is 92 — yes, 92 years old, born in 1921. He is the Pentagon’s director of a group called the Office of Net Assessment, and the Pentagon is pretty sure he is the oldest civilian or military official at the Defense Department. Marshall’s influence is legendary, perhaps because he almost never speaks publicly, a rarity in Washington, let alone in Pentagon circles.

During the 16-day furlough, his entire office was shut down. But coming back may be bittersweet, because the Pentagon is thinking about shutting the office down in the coming months as part of a cost-saving measure, several Pentagon officials said. The office may be disbanded or folded into another part of the Pentagon bureaucracy.

When CNN asked for an official answer about the status of Marshall’s office, the answer was this: “The Department of Defense is currently assessing our missions, structure and programs in light of an evolving set of strategic challenges, as well as a constrained fiscal environment. At this time, it would be premature to comment on pre-decisional issues.”

Marshall founded the office 40 years ago this month after coming over from the White House, where he was working for Henry Kissinger on the staff of the National Security Council. So what is “net assessment”? The Pentagon defines it as “the comparative analysis of military, technological, political, economic, and other factors governing the relative military capability of nations. Its purpose is to identify problems and opportunities that deserve the attention of senior defense officials.”

Through the Cold War with Russia, detente, the Balkans, Gulf War one, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of Chinese military technology, the threats posed by Iran, 9/11 and al Qaeda, Marshall’s been doing it, day in and day out, for 40 years.

CNN asked for an interview with Marshall about his extraordinary career. The request was declined, at least for now.