Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April

Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April
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The Pentagon’s top civilian in charge of nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs left the post to little fanfare in early April, adding to a growing number of Pentagon departures since late last year.

Assistant Secretary Guy Roberts resigned effective April 2, according to a Defense official who asked to remain anonymous.


Roberts resigned a day before he had been scheduled to go before a House Armed Services Committee subpanel to testify on the Department of Defense (DOD) strategy, policy and programs for countering weapons of mass destruction. Deputy Assistant Secretary Christian Hassell appeared instead for the April 3 hearing, and no reason was given at the time for the change.

Foreign Policy on Thursday was the first to report on the resignation.

Roberts was in charge of the Pentagon office meant to “sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” including missiles, submarines, and bomber aircraft, and “develop capabilities to detect, protect against and respond to” weapons of mass destruction threats. He was also responsible for ensuring “DOD compliance with nuclear, chemical, and biological treaties and agreements,” according to the department’s description of the office.

Roberts, who entered the position on Nov. 30, 2017, was still listed on the website as the assistant secretary as of Friday. 

The position faces heightened attention with the Trump administration announcing in February that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a decades-old arms control pact between the United States and Russia, as well as a signaled desire to expand arms control pacts to include other countries, like China.

Congress is also currently debating nuclear issues, with the House Armed Services Committee earlier this week moving forward a bill that cuts millions from U.S. nuclear programs and blocks the deployment of the new submarine-launched, low-yield nuclear warhead.

Roberts's departure adds to an already high amount of turnover at the Pentagon, which has been led by acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE since the beginning of January, making him the department’s longest acting secretary in its history.

Owen West, assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, is stepping down June 22, citing a desire for more time with his family, Task & Purpose reported earlier this week.

West in February told lawmakers that former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE was not wrong to disagree with President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE’s plan to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, an opinion that broke with the Trump administration.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson left at the end of May to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Other senior DOD leaders who have recently left their positions include Robert Daigle, the director of DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, who packed up in May to rejoin the private sector, as well as the Navy’s assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment, Phyllis Bayer, who in March submitted her resignation to "pursue other opportunities.”

Mattis announced his resignation in December following Trump’s surprise announcement that the administration would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, a top Mattis ally, left shortly thereafter.