When incumbent Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller arrived at the Pentagon on Monday, stumbled up the stairs and removed his mask, four Defense Department officials – all loyalists to President Donald Trump – were waiting for him inside. The White House had given them a heads up that Miller was out.
By the end of the next day, the four men would be at or near the top of the Department of Defense's radically changed organizational chart after a White House-led bloodshed redesigned the agency. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to deny President-elect Joe Biden's election victory, citing unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, and is pushing ahead with preparations for a highly implausible second term, causing officials to fear further layoffs may be imminent.
In the twilight of his administration, Trump reshuffled it Loyalists in positions for which current and former colleagues said they could not otherwise receive confirmation from the Senate. Pentagon officials see this as a sign that the White House will seek to adapt the Pentagon even more aggressively to its political whims, according to seven current and former officials interviewed for this story, many of whom speak only on condition of anonymity . The turmoil comes after Trump abruptly ousted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper from his post via Twitter on Monday and then forced to serve as James Anderson Under-Secretary of State for Politics on TuesdayIt denied the new Biden administration an orderly transition and moved the United States towards full withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Middle East that Trump pledged to execute years ago.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who once blunted for Trump on Fox News and propounded conspiracy theories on social media, now controls the Pentagon's policy shop. Replace Anderson Just four months after the government revoked his nomination for the Senate-approved role, tweets surfaced in the media spreading his Islamophobia and conspiracy theories about a former CIA director who tried to assassinate Trump. (He later he apologized for some of these social media posts in letters to senators on the Armed Forces Committee.)
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, an acolyte of retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was sacked as Trump's first national security adviser in 2017 after less than a month and who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, will oversee the Pentagon’s intelligence operations. This includes the Defense Intelligence Agency, an agency Flynn previously ran before he was fired during the Obama administration. Among them are Joe Francescon, who rose from a National Security Agency officer to Miller's deputy chief of staff, and Thomas M. Williams, who now serves as the No. 2 Temporary Agent in the insurance business.
The advancement of Tata and Cohen-Watnick, as well as the separate hiring of Trump ally Douglas Macgregor as chief adviser to Miller, are signs that in the final months of Trump, the administration may push for US military engagement in the Middle East to be drastically curtailed Administration. Both Tata and Macgregor, who were introduced to Esper this summer as the White House pick for the top political job, have called for a lower U.S. force presence in Afghanistan, and one official described Cohen-Watnick as suspicious of the defense industry complex doing so tries to extend the so-called Eternal Wars. Biden has said He plans to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, but leaves several thousand soldiers behind to prevent al-Qaeda and the Islamic State from launching attacks against the United States.
Macgregor, like Tata, was ready for a senior position in the administration, but those plans failed because of a cold reception from the legislature on Capitol Hill. Trump intended to have Macgregor as his next U.S. ambassador to Germany, but lawmakers opposed him because of controversial statements in the past, including violent xenophobic comments about refugees and immigrants in the U.S. and Germany.
Macgregor, like Trump, had skeptical views of NATO and in previous remarks has disparaged the alliance as out of date. "NATO is simply a zombie who is regularly resuscitated through various methods, usually voodoo magic," he said wrote by doing National interests last year. "It's time the NATO zombie ran out." He has also advocated a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a political priority that is consistent with the Trump administration and its supporters outside the administration.
The Pentagon's top political representative for Europe and NATO, Michael C. Ryan, was recently ousted after getting in the way of Trump loyalists. Officials described Ryan as a seasoned transatlantic policy expert. The Trump administration has tried to remove about a third of the 36,000 US troops from Germany, a decision that Accuse Critics was made without any strategic justification.
Miller, the new incumbent Pentagon chief who toured the invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq as the Green Beret, rose from the National Security Council's counter-terrorism directorate to head the federal government's largest agency in less than a year , and it is not viewed as a partisan. But he has cultivated close ties with Trump loyalists like Kash Patel, his new chief of staff, who tried to undermine the Russia investigation while serving as a Republican House advisor. The New York Times reported that Miller had developed a diplomatic mission to reach Qatar and buy off senior leaders from Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, but the idea was shot down by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The spate of layoffs may be just the first step of many as Trump's political loyalists hot on the heels of the president's refusal to accept the election results. An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said meetings to discuss routine matters of transition to the next government had been "postponed indefinitely" and that other influential Pentagon officials could become embroiled in a new wave of resignations or dismissals .
There are suspicions that the new leadership may target Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's Senate-approved senior acquisitions officer, and Lisa Hershman, the chief executive officer, in the coming weeks. Mark Tomb, Anderson's assistant chief of staff, was also fired yesterday. Foreign policy Approved. The Intercept first reported concerns about Lord's job security and Tomb's dismissal.
Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who has known Miller for 20 years, including serving in Afghanistan, and who has described him as "an accomplished professional, highly intelligent and competent" and committed to the nation, has called for the new incumbent officials Pentagon chiefs gather. However, the gunfire has still raised concerns about stability in the Pentagon.
"Stability in the Department of Defense during this transition period is very important," said Mulroy, now a national security analyst with ABC News. "Secretary Esper's leadership in keeping the military out of domestic affairs and the continuity of the chain of command were vital. Replacing him and other senior leaders now and at once was neither responsible nor consistent with maintaining stability."
And it's not just the reckoning that has been going on over the past two days that has troubled officials, spearheaded by the layoffs of Esper and Anderson who tried to protect coworkers in the final weeks of their tenure– –both political officers and professionals– –The aim is removal by White House loyalists. In mid-October, Esper managed to prevent the agency's senior intelligence officer, Joseph Kernan, from being fired, who was eventually replaced on Tuesday.
Trump's new ordinance on curbing civil service protection has also deepened loyalists' desire to remove career officials who are not on the White House agenda. The Pentagon's new White House liaison, Joshua Whitehouse, known as Trump's ally, recently called for the policy shop to oust Steven Schleien, the chief operating officer in that office since 2015, and to take responsibility for its budget and staff. Anderson protested that Tench had public service protection for his work, which likely made his dismissal illegal, a message the Pentagon General Counsel then relayed to the White House. Whitehouse has also filed complaints for repeatedly walking unannounced into Anderson's office without a mask or performing a temperature check over the past few weeks, regarding officials concerned about a recent U.S. surge in coronavirus cases.
In a statement, a Pentagon spokesman said the building had put in place a mandatory facial tissue policy, highlighting personal protective measures, and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 guidelines. "The Ministry of Defense respects and fully complies with the legal protection for civil servants," said the spokesman.
The personnel changes have made former officials and experts concerned about a lack of experience in top jobs at the Pentagon. Francescon has gone from being an NSC official to one of the acting Secretary of Defense's closest advisers in the past five months, while Williams has moved into Pentagon No. 2 Politics after taking office and is an assistant secretary, an unusual one Jump several levels from his career position.
"He's barely qualified to be a political officer, much less a (assistant secretary)," another former Trump administration defense official said of Williams when he was promoted this summer. “I can't express how incredibly confused it is. This is the person with the vices and three-star programmers supposed to override important budget and program decisions. God help us. "