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Top foreign policy Pentagon official resigns after White House passes on nomination

Top foreign policy Pentagon official resigns after White House passes on nomination
© Greg Nash

A top Pentagon policy official is resigning days after the White House rescinded its plans to nominate her for the Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian intelligence post, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperFemale generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command New Army hair and grooming standards allow for ponytails, buzz cuts and earrings MORE confirmed on Thursday.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant Defense secretary for international security affairs, submitted her resignation on Wednesday, five days after President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE pulled her name as the intended nominee to be deputy under secretary of Defense for intelligence. 

“In her role as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Katie brought a wealth of experience and the utmost professionalism to the Department throughout her service,” Esper said in a statement Thursday.

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“Her leadership in support of the National Defense Strategy is evident in the proud accomplishments of her team. She is someone I got to know well over the last three years and, with sincere appreciation for her many contributions and years of service, I wish Katie the very best in what I’m sure will be a very bright future.”

Reuters was the first to report on the resignation.

Trump on Feb. 13 named Wheelbarger as his intended nominee for the senior intelligence position but last week announced plans to instead nominate Bradley Hansell, a previous special assistant to the president. The White House sent Hansell's nomination to the Senate on Thursday.

In her resignation letter, Wheelbarger said that she trusted her colleagues to “continue to be guided by the U.S. Constitution and the principles of our founding, which ensure both our security and our freedom,” according to Reuters.

The White House is now being accused of overlooking Wheelbarger who was well regarded by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers due to her past work with the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (R-Ariz.). Wheelbarger worked as a Senate Armed Services Committee policy director alongside McCain, the panel’s former chairman and a staunch critic of Trump's.

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Wheelbarger is the second Pentagon official to resign this week after having her name pulled from the running for a top Defense Department job over reported loyalty concerns to Trump.

Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon's acting comptroller who questioned the Trump administration for its withholding of aid to Ukraine last year, submitted her resignation earlier this week after the White House in early March pulled her nomination for the official comptroller role.

Updated: 5 p.m.