"Talk to me, Goose."
"Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full."
These quippy references to 1986's "Top Gun" will find new relevance in the elite halls of the Pentagon following President Barack Obama's nomination of Christine Fox as the Defense Department's new acting No. 2.
Fox, considered the basis for the movie character and Tom Cruise love interest "Charlie," currently serves as a budget director at DOD. She will take over on an interim basis following former Deputy Secretary Ash Carter's retirement ceremony Monday afternoon in the Pentagon auditorium.
Her experience as director of the military's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation will prove useful as Secretary Chuck Hagel continues to mire in protracted budget woes.
"Christine … is a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager," said Hagel, who recommended Fox to Obama for the position, in a statement Tuesday morning.
Hagel says Fox was "a key leader" in the department's recent Strategic Choices and Management Review, known colloquially at the Pentagon as the "skimmer." This review helps the Pentagon plan for upcoming priorities and shape its budget accordingly.
But money problems continue to plague the Pentagon in 2013. Congress' inability to pass a budget for years leaves the Defense Department operating on a continuing resolution. Sequestration remains in effect, forcing the department to find billions in cuts, on top of existing planned cuts as the military draws down from two protracted wars in the Middle East.
In his farewell remarks, Carter warned "the turbulence surrounding governance in Washington is having serious effects."
"It injects inefficiencies into our programs and industry that we're striving to have deliver better buying power to the taxpayer for their dollars," said Carter, who announced his plan to retire in October. "It's unsafe, because it affects the readiness of the forces that would respond to contingencies.
"It's dispiriting to and unworthy of the patriots -- military and civilian -- who serve this government. Most seriously, it embarrasses us in front of friends and allies, and also potential opponents."
Hagel said Tuesday that Fox will help him shape the Pentagon's budget priorities "from Day One."
"She knows the intricacies of the department's budget, programs and global operations
better than anyone," Hagel said.
People Magazine profiled Fox in 1985 while Paramount Pictures was filming the iconic fighter-pilot movie at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. They noted the penetrating footsteps of Fox, then 30, as she walked down the hallway in high heels.
"They always know when I'm coming," she told People, "because I'm one of the few people around here whose heels click."
At that time she was developing tactics for defending aircraft carriers for the Center for Naval Analyses, where she spent a large part of her career. Her work mirrors that of the character, played by Kelly McGillis, though she rarely got to spend time with the student aviators. Instead of "Charlie," Fox's call sign was "Legs."
Fox has spent almost 30 years as a budget analyst and manager for defense issues, according to her DOD profile. She was a member of the NASA Return to Flight Task Group, which implemented the findings from the shuttle Columbia accident review. Fox holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from George Mason University.