President Obama's longest-serving foreign policy adviser, Mark Lippert, has decided to return to active duty in the Navy SEALs, the White House announced today. Lippert, 36, is chief of staff to the National Security Council. He has presided over an intricate and occasionally thorny reconfiguration of the 200 person NSC staff to better reflect Obama's national security priorities. He joined Obama's Senate staff in 2005 and then served a tour as an intelligence officer for Navy Special Forces in Iraq. He has told friends that he has long felt the call of duty to return to the SEALs, but that he wanted to make sure the NSC staff was on a firm footing before he left the president's service. A White House official said that Lippert had discussed his desire with Obama before he joined the administration. The same official said that Lippert hoped to return to the White House after his tour was up.
Replacing Lippert will be Denis McDonough, Obama's second-longest-serving foreign policy aide and a constant voice in Obama's ear. Ben Rhodes, Obama's top foreign policy speechwriter, has been promoted to McDonough's old job -- Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications. Both Rhodes and McDonough are as responsible for the development of his foreign and national security policies as almost any other advisers; they've got an ear for Obama's words and generally get the narrative that Obama is trying to write. (The "writing a narrative" idiom is something Obama likes to say in private when discussing foreign policy communication.)