- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Pentagon’s top policy chief abruptly resigned Tuesday, a day after the firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper as President Trump continues to shake up the military’s highest ranks in the days following the still-unsettled presidential election.

James Anderson, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy, submitted his resignation letter on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after President Trump unceremoniously dispatched Mr. Esper following a series of clashes over policy.

The Associated Press reported that Anthony Tata, a retired Army one-star general and former Fox News commentator, will take over for Mr. Anderson through the presidential transition, but will not hold the “acting” title.

Mr. Tata had earlier been President Trump’s nominee for the top policy job until his name was pulled for consideration due to controversial Twitter messages that critics accused of being Islamophobic.

Also resigning on Tuesday were Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, and Jen Stewart, who had been Mr. Esper’s chief of staff. Mr. Kernan’s departure reportedly had been planned for several months.

Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of defying tradition and destabilizing the Defense Department at a time when allies and adversaries are closely watching the hand-off of power in Washington.

“If this is the beginning of a trend — the president either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, said in a statement.

Filling what is widely considered the third-highest job in the Pentagon, Mr. Anderson in his resignation cited his work modernization of the nation’s nuclear triad and strengthening relationships in the Indo-Pacific region, while curtly thanking Mr. Trump for “the opportunity to serve.”

Mr. Anderson quit his post during the first full day on the job of acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, the head of the government’s National Counterterrorism Center who was named by Mr. Trump to replace Mr. Esper.

Assuming presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden is sworn into office in January, Mr. Miller’s tenure in the Pentagon is expected to be brief. But that doesn’t mean the decorated Green Beret won’t have anything to do, said James Carafano, a defense analysts at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“There are plenty of loose ends to tie up. There’s plenty to keep him busy,” Mr. Carafano said. “But obviously there are not going to be any new initiatives in the next month or two.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor he expected to speak soon with Mr. Miller to discuss potential threats to the country, including terror groups and great power rivals such as China, but also had pointed words of praise for the departing Mr. Esper.

Mr. Esper “brought integrity, expertise and steady leadership to the Pentagon’s top job,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I am grateful for his work to keep our country safe, modernize our military, and implement the Trump Administration’s new National Defense Strategy to address the challenges of our time.”

On Monday, Mr. Miller was briefed on deployment and nuclear issues and told top uniformed and civilian officials at the Pentagon not to expect any “significant changes.”

Retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Amerine said he was overjoyed when he heard that his fellow Green Beret had been tapped by President Trump to lead the Department of Defense.

“His whole career has pretty much been focused on foreign policy and national-level issues,” Lt. Col. Amerine said. “I consider him perfect for the job whether it is for two months or two years.”

Mr. Miller was an Army major commanding a Green Beret company in the 5th Special Forces Group during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He would eventually command a battalion in the 5th Special Forces Group and completed multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Hearing that Chris Miller is the secretary of Defense is one thing that absolutely makes me sleep better at night,” Lt. Col. Amerine said. “There is just nobody better right now to juggle everything for a couple of months.”

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide