Jeh Johnson, the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense, has announced that he is stepping down at the end of the year.
In a letter Thursday addressed to President Barack Obama, Johnson said that he would resign effective midnight December 31, and that after taking some time off, he would return to private practice.
"Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your campaign, your transition and your Administration," Johnson wrote. "Thank you also for the best clients I will ever have: Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and the men and women of the U.S. military. I wish you continued success in your second term."
Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, Johnson's public affairs officer, declined to say what Jonson's future private practice plans were. Prior to joining the department, Johnson was a litigation partner with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Paul Weiss head of communications, Lisa Green, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the Defense Department, Johnson oversees an army of 10,000 lawyers, including 150 who report to the general counsel's office. He was confirmed to the post in February 2009.
During his time at the agency, Johnson authored a 266-page report that said that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military would cause few disruptions. That report paved the way for Congress to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Johnson was also instrumental in the Obama administration's handling of military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the legality of U.S. military involvement in Libya.