National Security

Top nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report

The Pentagon has removed one of its top political appointees as the Biden administration looks to solidify its nuclear weapons policies moving forward. 

Leonor Tomero, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for nuclear and missile defense, was asked by Pentagon officials to resign, a move first reported by Politico

Tomero had only been in her role for eight months and was responsible for overseeing the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. The president is expected to release that review, which details its strategy surrounding nuclear weapons, in early 2022, the news outlet reported. 

This strategy could involve cutting back on the country’s use of nuclear weapons or modernizing the U.S. nuclear force against the wishes of progressive lawmakers.

Some advocates for nuclear disarmament suggested Tomero’s departure was the result of her efforts to challenge current nuclear policies, The Washington Post reported

Nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis told the Post her departure signals a “no tolerance” policy at the Pentagon for new ideas. 

“People wonder why we don’t learn from failures like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The reason is simple: People who point out alternatives to current national security policies are systematically driven out of positions of authority,” Lewis, who is also a professor at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, told the Post.

An anonymous Pentagon official denied that Tomero’s views contributed to her ousting.

“This was a reorganization decision to more appropriately align our organization with policy objectives,” the official said to the Post. “This was not a difference in opinion or policy.”

At a press briefing Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said he would not discuss personnel issues, but insisted their focus was on “protecting our security interests.”

“It’s natural with any new administration — this one’s not excepted — that we would want to reevaluate the organizational structure and make changes where we think is appropriate to support the secretary’s priorities,” he said. 

President Biden has been a longtime proponent of scaling back U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons. Former President Obama previously considered a “No First Use” policy, meaning the U.S. would only use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack.

Though the Obama administration did not enact this policy, and the Trump administration rejected it in 2018, Biden has signaled his support for it, the Post said.

Biden said in a 2017 speech that it was “hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense.”

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for more information.

Tags Barack Obama Defense Department Joe Biden John Kirby Nuclear Posture Review Nuclear weapons

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