The Pentagon’s top lawyer, Stephen Preston, general counsel of the Department of Defense, notified President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that he will be leaving federal service at the end of June, after completing six years in the Obama administration.
Preston was appointed DoD general counsel by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate, on Oct. 25, 2013. He previously served as general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency from July 2009 to October 2013. From 1993 to 2000, during the Clinton administration, he held a series of positions at the Departments of Defense and Justice, including general counsel of the Navy.
Preston has played a leading role within the Obama administration in ensuring that the United States’ use of military force complies fully with all applicable U.S. and international law. While at CIA, he was the government lawyer principally involved in planning for the May 2011 operation in which Usama bin Laden was brought to justice. At DoD, he was instrumental in resolving authorities issues relating to the ongoing U.S. mission in Afghanistan after 2014 and the emerging U.S. mission to counter ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Throughout his time in government, Preston has been a vocal proponent of greater transparency in matters of national security, speaking publicly on the legal justifications for U.S. counterterrorism operations abroad.
“Over the past six years, Stephen has served two secretaries of defense and three directors of the CIA with distinction – as a trusted legal advisor, wise counselor and effective advocate – helping to confront some of the most difficult challenges to our national security. I had the pleasure of working with him at the Pentagon in the 1990s, and I was pleased to have a hand in getting him back here when I was deputy secretary. On behalf of the men and women of the Defense Department, I thank Stephen for his many contributions to the national defense and for his years of selfless service to our country,” said Secretary Carter.
“It has been a rare honor to serve in the Obama administration, under truly inspiring leaders – most recently Secretary Carter, to whom I am very grateful. My highest calling as a government lawyer has been to protect from legal exposure the men and women who are put at risk to protect our country. The opportunity to serve those who serve us has been the great privilege of my professional life,” said Preston.
Preston looks forward to spending time with his family before returning to work in the private sector. He has accepted an adjunct faculty appointment at Yale and, in addition to pursuing other opportunities, will be teaching a course at Yale Law School in the fall.
Release No: NR-150-15
April 29, 2015
April 29, 2015