When Barack Obama came to the Senate, Mark Lippert — a veteran Senate aide and newly-minted Naval Reserve officer — was the first foreign policy adviser he hired.
Now, Lippert — currently serving as Deputy National Security Adviser and Chief of Staff to the NSC — is becoming the first senior member of the President's foreign policy team to leave the Administration.
Lippert had even more influence than his lofty, dual title would suggest, a product of his long service and determined work ethic. While it's unusual for someone with his level of power and proximity to the President to leave the Administration so early (and there are some reports of clashes with NSA Jim Jones), Lippert associates say he is answering to a higher calling: returning to active military service as a Naval Intelligence Officer.
Lippert served 9 months in Iraq during the Presidential campaign and had discussed returning to active service with the President before the Inauguration.
Robert Gibbs says the President admires Lippert's decision and would welcome him back to WH service at any time.
UPDATE: Another US official suggests that Lippert didn't have full control over the timing of his decision to return to active military service, saying that Jones was indeed "unhappy" with Lippert and that Lippert had "overplayed his hand."
ALSO- a response from President Obama: "I will miss Mark and his counsel, his excellent work at the NSC, and his good cheer. At the same time, I was not surprised when he came and told me he had stepped forward for another mobilization, as Mark is passionate about the Navy. I support his decision. He is a close friend, and I admire and respect his devotion to our country and answering the call to active duty service. He will always have a senior foreign policy position in this White House, when he chooses to return to civilian life."
General Jones: "Mark has been vital to building a strong and revitalized National Security Council, ready to address the myriad challenges we face in the 21st century. I’m confident that Mark will continue to serve his nation in the United States Navy with the same commitment and sense of patriotism that we benefited from here in the White House. I congratulate him on this new post."
- George Stephanopoulos