President Obama has tapped an Army lawyer and former congressman from Oklahoma to serve as the Pentagon's top personnel official.

Brad Carson, 48, will serve as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the primary official overseeing military personnel and compensation policies.

Carson served as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005. Most recently he served as the undersecretary of the Army and that service's chief management officer.

Carson earned a Bronze Star during a deployment to Iraq in 2009-10 as an active-duty Navy intelligence officer attached to the Army's 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion. He is currently listed as Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve's Individual Ready Reserve.

He is also an enrolled tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, according to his official biography.

In 2002, Carson voted with the Republican majority in supporting the use of force against Iraq.

He replaces Jessica Wright, who announced in December that she would leave to spend more time with her family.

Carson takes the job at a time of renewed debate about the future of military compensation and personnel policies. In January, a blue-ribbon panel recommended far-reaching structural changes to troops' pay and benefits, including shrinking the traditional retirement benefit by about 20 percent and eliminating the Tricare health system in its current form and instead offering military families health coverage similar to government civilian benefits.

The Pentagon is finalizing a formal response to those proposals, one that likely will influence Congress as it considers whether to enact the proposals into law.

In late March, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the military personnel system should make several key changes to better compete with the private sector for highly skilled people, including changing the promotion system to put more weight on skills and less emphasis on seniority.

He also called for expanding the services' sabbatical programs and allowing some highly-skilled mid-career people to enter the military and granting them an automatic mid-career rank to reflect their civilian experience.

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

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