Esper’s chief of staff to depart at end of January
Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s chief of staff will step down at the end of the month after a little more than two years at the Pentagon, adding to the string of high-profile civilians to leave the building or announce their departures in the past month.
Eric Chewning “will be leaving the department at the end of January to return to the private sector,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.
Chewning, a former Army intelligence officer, was first confirmed as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for industrial policy in October 2017 and became chief of staff to then-acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan last January. He became Esper’s chief of staff when Shanahan removed himself from the running for Pentagon chief.
In the Defense Department statement, Esper praised Chewning’s “professionalism, judgment, and leadership over the last seven months,” calling his job “incredibly demanding.”
Chewning is the sixth civilian policymaker to announce a departure from the Pentagon in the past month, including five within seven days in December.
Those include the Dec. 12 notification that top Asia policy official Randall Schriver was leaving; the Dec. 13 announcement that head of personnel and readiness Jimmy Stewart had resigned; the Dec. 16 departure of Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, senior adviser for international cooperation; the Dec. 17 report that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency leader Steven Walker will leave this month; and the Dec. 18 news that Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Kari Bingen would leave Jan. 10.
Farah defended the Pentagon’s ability to fill the empty roles, pointing to last month’s Senate confirmation of three Defense Department nominees: Lisa Hershman to be chief management officer, Dana Deasy to be chief information officer and Robert Sander to be Navy general counsel.
“The Department continues to bring in high quality personnel into leadership positions. This week three new Senate-confirmed appointees will be sworn in, while three nominees await Senate action, and additional nominations are expected in coming weeks,” she said in the statement.
Chewning will be replaced by Jen Stewart, the top Republican staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, according to the Pentagon.
Stewart previously served as a senior advisor to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and as the national security adviser to former House Speakers Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“I have known Jen for years and I’m excited to bring her into the Department,” Esper said. “Her deep expertise on national security issues will be a great addition to our team as we continue implementing the National Defense Strategy.”
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