New Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' following leadership purge

New Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' following leadership purge
© Bonnie Cash

Newly appointed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said Friday that the military “remains strong” following President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE's abrupt ouster of his predecessor and the resignations of several top Defense officials.

“I want to assure the American public and our allies and partners that the Department of Defense remains strong and continues its vital work of protecting our homeland, our people and our interests around the world,” Miller said at the Pentagon ahead of a meeting with his Lithuanian counterpart.

Miller on Monday took over as Pentagon chief after Trump fired previous Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on 0 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved MORE via tweet, two days after President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE was declared the winner of the presidential election.

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Esper’s departure was quickly followed by that of the Pentagon's top policy official James Anderson, top intelligence official Joseph Kernan and Esper's chief of staff Jen Stewart, who all submitted letters of resignation on Tuesday.

Deputy chief of staff Alexis Ross resigned on Friday.  

The shake-up was quickly called out by lawmakers as a detriment to national security in the midst of a tense transition of power. Trump’s critics also worry that the Pentagon’s new leadership may try to push through controversial executive orders in the president’s remaining two months in office.

“Whatever the reason, casting aside a Secretary of Defense during the volatile days of transition seems to neglect the President’s most important duty: to protect our national security,” tweeted Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHouse erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks Democrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker MORE (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official.

But on Friday, Miller underscored calm at the Defense Department. He noted that he has already spoken to his counterparts in several ally countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and that he plans to speak to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later in the day.

Miller also said he has spoken with leaders in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-Ky.), Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCapitol riot defendants have started a jail newsletter: report On The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

Miller, a White House counterterrorism specialist and former special forces officer, will likely be replaced quickly after Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.