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Posted by on Jan 8, 2020 in Politics | 0 comments

The US national security bench is thin

When a national leader flirts with war, citizens need assurance that decision makers are knowledgable, competent and experienced. And that positions aren’t full of acting heads or, worse yet, empty.

In the case of President Donald Trump’s two-step with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that is not the case. Perhaps that’s why Pompeo has such influence with Trump.

Who was advising Trump in Florida?

News reports have placed these advisers at Mar-a-Lago at year’s end, with their start date noted:

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (April 26, 2018)
  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (January 2, 2019)
  • White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland (June 17, 2019)
  • Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (July 23, 2019)
  • National security adviser Robert O’Brien (September 18, 2019)
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (sworn in September 30, 2019)

Others, the hand-wavingly-referenced “generals” … apparently phoned in their advice.

New York Times, Politico

Who else knew?

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Probable, GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy (CA)
  • Probable, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
  • Probable, Jared Kushner
  • Probable, White House aides Hogan Gidley and Dan Scavino

Who’s missing?

DoD and Armed Forces Commanders

In calendar 2019 we had

  • TWO heads of DoD
  • TWO Secretaries of the Army
  • TWO Secretaries of the Navy
  • THREE Secretaries of the Air Force.

All have held their current position for less than six months.

After Jim Mattis left, the Pentagon had no permanent leader for seven months. Esper had been Trump’s third pick to be Secretary of Army, confirmed November 15, 2017 (89-6). He replaced Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan who had replaced Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (2017-2018).

The Senate confirmed Esper as Defense Secretary July 23, 2019 (98-0).

What you need to know about Esper:

Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is the group of senior uniformed leaders that advises the president and the secretaries of military branches.

All but one relevant member is new (ignoring National Guard for the moment)

In calendar 2019 we had

  • TWO chairmen of the JCS
    Mark A. Milley assumed position in Oct.
  • TWO vice chairman
    General John E. Hyten assumed position in Nov.
  • THREE directors of the Joint Staff
    Lt Gen Glen D. VanHerck assumed the position in Sept.

The sole (relevant) veteran member is Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David L. Goldfein, who has held his position since 1 July 2016.

What you need to know about JCS Chair Mark Milley:

He basically said that the Washington Post lied in its expose on Afghanistan, based on FOIA docs it took three years to pry out of DOD.

He said on Thursday that the American Embassy “was never in danger of being overrun.” That was before he said on Friday that Soleimani was an imminent threat, in order to justify an assassination.

National Security Council

Robert O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser, may be best known for his role representing American rapper ASAP Rocky in Stockholm, Sweden. Trump selected him in September after John Bolton departed. This position does not require Senate confirmation.

O’Brien is a lawyer with limited national security experience. A major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the US Army Reserve, he was an alternate representative to the United Nations under Bush 43. He was co-chairman of a State Department group charged with training judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in Iraq. He was an adviser to Mitt Romney’s advisory committee in 2011 and foreign policy and national security affairs adviser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign in 2015.

What you need to know about O’Brien:

One of his first acts was to make Matthew Pottinger deputy national security adviser. A Marine military intelligence officer who served with Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn in Afghanistan, Pottinger joined the NSC staff when Flynn was in the White House. Pottinger is a China expert.

America’s deputy national security adviser for Middle East and North African affair, who was promoted to this position in October 2019, is Victoria Coates, an art historian (PhD) who blogged at RedState in the 2000s.

She was an adviser to Rick Perry (2012) and Ted Cruz (2013 and 2016) presidential campaigns. She joined the Trump NSC in 2017 as senior director for strategic assessments, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal.

Image: Desert Storm, A Look Back (DoD)