Re-elected presidents often replace cabinet members, including the defense secretary, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon leaders in place until inauguration day to preserve stability in the name of national security.
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Trump announced the news in a tweet, claiming that “with immediate effect” Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as acting secretary, bypassing the No. 2 head of the department, the assistant secretary for terrorism. Defense David Norquist.
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“Chris will do a great job!” Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper was fired. I want to thank him for his service.
Trump’s abrupt decision to dump Esper raises questions about what the president might try to do over the next few months before stepping down, including adjustments in the presence of troops overseas or other security changes national.
Biden has not said who he would appoint defense chief, but rumor has it that he is considering appointing the first woman to the post – Michele Flournoy. Flournoy has served in the Pentagon several times, starting in the 1990s and most recently as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009 to 2012. She is well known on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat and is considered among US allies and partners as a hand that promotes strong US military cooperation abroad.
Miller most recently served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center and prior to that he was Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense and senior advisor to Trump on counterterrorism issues. He has a long experience in the army, having served as an infantryman enlisted in the army reserves, then as a special forces officer. He also served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. After retiring from the military, Miller worked as a defense contractor.
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Esper’s strained relationship with Trump nearly collapsed last summer amid civil unrest that sparked debate within the administration over the military’s appropriate role in tackling domestic unrest. Esper’s opposition to using active-duty troops to help quell protests in Washington, DC infuriated Trump and led to much speculation that the defense chief was ready to step down if he was again faced with such a problem.
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During his roughly 16-month tenure, Esper has generally supported Trump’s policies, but more recently he was expected to resign or be ousted if Trump won re-election.
Presidents have historically given stability to the Pentagon a high priority during political transitions. Since the creation of the Department of Defense and the post of Secretary of Defense in 1947, the only three presidents to lose the election for a second term – Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush – have all kept their secretary in office. Defense in place until the day of the inauguration.
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Esper, who was the official successor to former Navy General James Mattis, has consistently stressed the importance of keeping the military and the Department of Defense out of politics. But it turned out to be an uphill struggle as Trump took turns praising what he called “his generals” and denigrating key Pentagon executives as dedicated war merchants to promote business for the industry. defense.
Trump criticized his first Secretary of Defense Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 following Trump’s abrupt decision – later overturned – to withdraw all US troops from Syria and then Esper. The splits reflected Trump’s fundamentally different views on America’s place in the world, the value of international defense alliances, and the importance of shielding the military from national partisan politics.
During Trump’s tenure, the Pentagon has often been at the center of uproar, caught up in a persistent and erratic debate over the use of US forces at war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and on US soil at the border. Mexican and in busy cities. by civil unrest and rocked by the coronavirus.
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Esper’s departure has appeared inevitable since he publicly broke with Trump in June following the President’s push to deploy military troops to the streets of the nation’s capital in response to the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd by the police. Esper publicly opposed Trump’s threats to invoke the two-century-old insurgency law, which would allow the president to use active-duty troops in a law enforcement role. And Trump was furious when Esper told reporters that the insurgency law should only be invoked “in the most urgent and serious situations”, and “we are not in either of those situations now. ”
The June civil unrest first drew Esper into controversy when he joined an entourage of Trump who walked from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photoshoot with Trump hoisting a Bible . Critics condemned Esper, saying he allowed himself to be used as a political prop.
Esper said he didn’t know he was heading for a photoshoot, but believed he was going to see the damage to the church and see National Guard troops in the area. He was accompanied by General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who later expressed his public regret for being present in uniform.
Trump hinted at Esper’s fragile status in August, slyly responding to a reporter’s question about whether he still has faith in Esper’s leadership. “Mark ‘Yesper’? Did you call him “Yesper”? Trump said, in what appeared to be an allusion to suggestions that Esper was a yes for the president. When asked if he was considering sacking Esper, Trump replied, “At some point, this is happening.”
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