New Pentagon chief says military ‘remains strong’ following leadership purge
Newly appointed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said Friday that the military “remains strong” following President Trump’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 Esper via tweet, two days after President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election.
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 Slotkin (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 McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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.