AUGUSTA, Maine — President Obama has nominated former University of Maine System chancellor and political science professor Joseph Westphal to be the next under secretary of the Army.
Westphal previously served as assistant secretary for the Army for civil works during the Clinton administration. He was recruited by President Obama late last year to be part of his transition team on defense issues.
A tenured professor of political science at UMaine, Westphal served as chancellor of the UMaine system from April 2002 to June 2006. During that time, he developed a reorganization plan for the system and took steps to encourage more collaboration between system campuses and community colleges.
He also relocated the system’s offices to downtown Bangor. But arguably his most controversial act as chancellor was his proposal to merge the university’s campuses at Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Machias and to make the University of Augusta part of the University of Southern Maine.
Westphal stepped down from the chancellor position to continue teaching at UMaine. He then went on unpaid leave from the university to become provost of the New School in New York City before joining then president-elect Obama’s national security team.
“He certainly is somebody who understands the ways of Washington,” said UMS spokesman John Diamond. “I know he always felt very comfortable in Washington and was well respected there.”
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins praised Westphal’s nomination.
“A man of tremendous intellect and impeccable character, Joe is no stranger to the complex issues confronting the United States Army and possesses the expertise required to help navigate this vital military branch through these consequential times,” Snowe said in a statement.
“Dr. Westphal is a strong choice to become Deputy Secretary of the Army,” Collins said in a separate statement. “I worked closely with Dr. Westphal during his tenure as chancellor of the University of Maine System and during his time as Assistant Secretary of the Army. I look forward to working with him to better serve our nation’s soldiers.”