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Old 07-10-2019, 05:40 AM
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Arrow Pentagon faces a month of disruption as Esper transition keeps top leaders in tempora

Pentagon faces a month of disruption as Esper transition keeps top leaders in temporary jobs
BY: Jamie McIntyre - The Washington Examiner - 7-10-19

THE TRANSITION PLAN: The nomination of Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the next secretary of defense is forcing the Pentagon into a convoluted transition plan that will keep nearly a dozen senior officials in temporary jobs for weeks and in some cases months.

The unexpected withdrawal of Patrick Shanahan last month, along with provisions of the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, requires Esper — who’s only been acting secretary for less than three weeks — to step aside while a third acting secretary takes over until he is confirmed or rejected by the Senate.

MUSICAL CHAIRS: Under the plan, as soon as Esper’s nomination paperwork hits the Senate, he will move back to his old office and resume his duties as Army secretary. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who is next in the line of succession at the Pentagon, will become the third acting secretary this year. His deputy, Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, will serve as Navy secretary while the Senate considers Esper’s nomination.

The moves have a cascading effect throughout the department. For instance, Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist, who has been “performing the duties” of deputy defense secretary, won’t be nominated for the post until Esper’s fate has been decided by the Senate. “Performing the duties” is the term of art for someone who is in a position for which they are not eligible to serve in an acting capacity. Modly is another leader who will be “performing the duties” of his boss, because he doesn’t qualify for acting status.

Shanahan was able to serve as acting defense secretary because as deputy, he had been confirmed in a position with the same authorities as defense secretary, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

THE BIG BUGABOO: The most important aspect of the plan is that Esper is completely removed from the top job and must be careful to take no action that would indicate he assumes he will be confirmed — a point that Eric Chewning, the chief of staff to the acting defense secretary, hammered home in a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon.

"We are working closely with the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee, and we thank them for their efforts and commitment to swiftly consider top DoD leadership when they receive the formal nomination," Chewning said. "We will not presume formal confirmation, and it is the prerogative of the Senate to take as long as they think is necessary to examine and confirm a nominee."

NEXT CNO?: As if there is not enough upheaval already, the sudden retirement of Adm. William Moran — who was already confirmed to be the next chief of naval operations and was set to take over Aug. 1 — has set off a scramble to find a new CNO.

Moran was forced to decline the job over the revelation he maintained a professional relationship with a former public affairs officer who earned the nickname “Bad Santa” after a 2016 holiday party in which he was accused of inappropriate activity.

Navy Secretary Spencer said he would move quickly to recommend a new candidate to Esper, but with the way things are going, he may be making that recommendation to himself. Depending on the timetable of the Senate, which is set to adjourn Aug. 2, Spencer could be the acting defense secretary for several weeks.

HANDICAPPING THE RACE: The Navy doesn’t have a long list of four-star admirals to pick from, and at the Pentagon yesterday the name that kept coming up was Adm. James Foggo, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa.

“It’s a horserace,” said one Navy official, who admitted he had no inside knowledge of who Spencer might pick. While Foggo seems a logical choice, the official said the other name that people are speculating about is Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Spencer also has the option of reaching down to the three-star ranks and elevating a vice admiral to the four-star post.

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Kelly Jane Torrance (@kjtorrance). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!

HAPPENING TODAY: Vice President Mike Pence will be touring the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., today, where he will be briefed on launch operations around the globe. He’s then scheduled to deliver remarks to base personnel.

BIPARTISAN DISAGREEMENT ON BIPARTISANSHIP: As the House begins to consider amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020, the partisan bickering over the lack of bipartisanship has started things off on a contentious note.

Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith and ranking Republican Mac Thornberry traded polite barbs yesterday. “Normally the NDAA is a product of bipartisan consensus that allows Congress to execute our most important Constitutional duty. Unfortunately, partisan provisions in this bill have robbed it of bipartisan support,” Thornberry complained in a statement he issued. “Through this bill, House Democrats are forcing our troops to pay the price for their political disputes with the President.”

“I have an enormous amount of respect for the ranking member … but I very strongly disagree with his opening statement and quite frankly resent certain aspects of it,” Smith countered when Thorberry made similar remarks on the House floor. “This committee is bipartisan, and we worked in a very bipartisan manner in how we produced this product. If you disagree with the policy, that’s fine, and we’ll have those discussions in just a minute, but to claim that this was a partisan product is just wrong.”

“I remember being in the minority on this committee. I voted for [the bill] over and over again, even though there were a lot of policies in there that I didn’t agree with, and I hope we can get back to the point where that’s the discussion that we have,” Smith said.

MAKING THE ROUNDS: Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe met yesterday with the three top Pentagon officials seeking Senate confirmation: Gen. Mark Milley, Mark Esper, and David Norquist.

“The Department of Defense needs strong, confirmed leadership, and after meeting with Secretary Esper, General Milley, and Mr. Norquist, I feel confident that they are the right choices to lead the Department of Defense at this pivotal time,” said Inhofe, signaling all three should win easy confirmation.

Milley, chief of staff of the Army, has a confirmation hearing tomorrow on his nomination to take over as chairman of the joint chiefs in September. Esper’s nomination could be sent to the White House as early as this week.

QATAR’S IRAN CONNECTION: When President Trump welcomed the emir of Qatar to the White House yesterday, he was effusive in his praise for the gas-rich Gulf nation, touting Qatar’s investment in the United States and its purchase of military hardware and commercial aircraft.

“They're investing very heavily in our country. They're creating a lot of jobs. They're buying tremendous amounts of military equipment, including planes,” Trump said. “And they're buying commercial planes, as you know — very large numbers of commercial planes from Boeing. And we very much appreciate it.”

In particular, Trump raved about the Al Udeid Air Base, which serves as forward headquarters for U.S. Central Command and hosts most of the U.S. forward deployed bombers and fighter aircraft. “They built one of the great military bases, I would say, anywhere in the world. And it's just been expanded, with runways and everything else. It's been really a great honor to work with my friend,” Trump said of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

But one of the Air Force generals who helped establish the base in the aftermath of 9/11 is taking issue with the president giving the emir a pass on Iran. Retired Gen. Charles Wald was in charge of all U.S. Air Force personnel in the Middle East, and in an op-ed published yesterday, he called for Trump to deliver a tough message to Qatar.

“It is time to use the full force of the Oval Office to explain the dire consequences that Qatar could face for continuing its game of cozying up to countries on all sides of the Middle East's volatile divides; it is time to decide which team it's on,” Wald writes, calling for the closure of Al Udeid if Qatar doesn't change its behavior.

“It has shown support for Iran, which has been the world's foremost abetter of state-sponsored terrorism and ill-will in the Middle East and the very one we are prepping to combat. In this current climate, where Iran is accused of attacking foreign oil tankers and U.S. drones and has announced it's accelerating work on its nuclear program, Qatar must choose: It can keep its U.S. air base or its ties to Tehran.”

The Rundown
Defense News: War powers debate teed up for defense policy bill

Foreign Policy: Britain, France agree to send additional troops to Syria

Stars and Stripes: Pentagon spent $1.2 million to support 'Salute to America' event on July Fourth

Defense One: Dunford: US will provide intel, not escorts, in Strait of Hormuz

Wall Street Journal: Iran Threatens Retaliation Over British Seizure Of Its Tanker

Washington Post: Aboard a U.S. patrol ship in the Persian Gulf, where tensions are spiking

Reuters: U.S. Wants North Korea Freeze As Beginning, Not End, Of Denuclearization

The Diplomat: Japan's Aegis Ashore System Hits a Roadblock: Domestic Politics

Washington Examiner: Ex-State Department employee gets more than three years in prison over Chinese intel ties

New York Times: China Irked As U.S. Plans To Sell Arms To Taiwan

Air Force Magazine: SOUTHCOM: Build Regional Partnerships to Fend Off Adversaries

Stars and Stripes: SOCOM 'does not envision' mandatory keto diet for SEALs or others

Marine Times: Retired female Marine aviator unveils campaign to unseat McConnell, rebukes him for not writing back about women in combat

Breaking Defense: House Democrats: Please Pass A Bipartisan Defense Policy Bill


8:30 a.m. 300 First Street S.E. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies discussion on "Nuclear Arms Control and Deterrent Futures: An Assessment," with Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, former energy undersecretary for nuclear security, and Madelyn Creedon, president of Green Marble LLC.

9 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W. Center for Strategic and International Studies event “Military Advice and the ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan,” with retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Jonathan Schroden, research program director at CNA; Linda Robinson, senior international/defense researcher at the RAND Corporation; and Mark Cancian, senior adviser at CSIS.

10 a.m. HVC-210 Capitol. House Veterans' Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing on "Economic Well-being of Women Veterans."

10:15 a.m. 419 Dirksen. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Defense Cooperation: Use of Emergency Authorities Under the Arms Export Control Act,” with Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper.

11:30 a.m. 2360 Rayburn. House Small Business Committee hearing on "Continuing to Serve: From Military to Entrepreneur.” Witnesses: Davy Leghorn, assistant director of the American Legion; retired Army Capt. Scott Davidson, managing principal and CEO of the GCO Consulting Group, McLean, Va.; Torrance Harrington Hart, owner of Teak and Twine, Springfield, Va.; and Laurie Sayles, president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions, Greenbelt, Md.

12:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Woodrow Wilson Center's Asia Program discussion on "Taiwan's Democracy and the Free and Open Pacific: A Mayoral Perspective,” with Taoyuan City, Taiwan, Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan.

1 p.m. House Triangle, U.S. Capitol. House Democrats hold a news conference on "preventing war with Iran,” with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.; Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.; Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif.; Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.; and Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.


8 a.m. 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel. National Defense Industrial Association Integrated Air and Missile Defense Symposium "Defense Against Emerging Threats." Speakers include: Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Richard De Fatta, director of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Future Warfare Center.

8:30 a.m. 300 First Street S.E. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies discussion on "Missile Defense and Directed Energy," with former Missile Defense Agency director retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton.

9 a.m. 8th & I Sts. S.E. Retiring Gen. Robert Neller relinquishes command of the U.S. Marine Corps to new commandant Gen. David Berger in a change of command ceremony at the Marine Barracks.

9:30 a.m. G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Army Gen. Mark Milley for reappointment to the grade of general and to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

10:30 a.m. 1025 Connecticut Avenue N.W. SETA Foundation discussion on "U.S.-Turkey Relations Three Years After the July 15 Coup Attempt." Speakers include Mehdi Eker, head of the Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group for the USA.


8:30 a.m. 300 First Street S.E. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies a discussion on "Missile Defense: A Review and Assessment," with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

11 a.m. Pentagon River Entrance. Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper welcomes Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister Bakhodir Kurbanov to the Pentagon.


Let's see what gets accomplished - if anything.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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