U.S. President Donald J. Trump on Monday fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, promoting Christopher C. Miller, who was already been approved by the Senate to lead the National Counterterriorism Center, to take his place.
On Tuesday, Defense officials confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that Kash Patel, a Trump ally and aide to California Congressman Devin Nunes who discredited the Russia investigation, will be named Miller’s Chief of Staff.
Also leaving the Pentagon on Tuesday was Vice Admiral Joseph Kernan, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who was Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. Replacing him is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a confidant of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. In other words, the Department of Defense is being prepped for battle.
I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
The president had reportedly clashed with Esper over two major issues.
The first coalesced after President Trump led a contingent of leaders, including Esper, to St. John’s Episcopal Church, after which Esper made it known to the media that he objected to flexing the military to quell street violence.
His second move that contradicted the president was his stance in favor of historical revisionism, going around President Trump’s preference to maintain the names of military installations, because of the historical import of them to soldiers who served, rather than update them all to exclude controversial namesakes or those who served on the Confederate side of the Civil War.
NBC reported that Esper was working with Democrat leaders in the House to add chapters to the National Defense Authorization Act bill that would allow them to change the names of bases, ships or even street names on bases that were now seen as politically incorrect.
In June, President Trump tweeted, “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
A West Point graduate, Esper formerly served as a U.S. Army officer. After leaving military service, he was a Senate staffer, chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation, and Vice President for Government Relations at Raytheon.
He will be replaced by an officer with much more experience in war. The timing also speaks to the tumult the country will face as the president challenges last week’s vote, with the unveiling of the widespread ballot stuffing, expected to lead to a hearing in front of the Supreme Court and repudiation of VP Joe Biden’s provisional victory.
According to the Department of Defense, Miller was Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and is former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. He is responsible for overseeing the employment of special operations forces in counterterrorism, Military Information Support Operations, Information Operations, unconventional warfare, irregular warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counter proliferation, sensitive special operations, and personnel recovery/hostage issues as specified by the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Miller was sworn on 6 January 2020.
Previously, Miller served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council, responsible for strategic level policy making and implementation, and support to senior NSC and White House leadership.
Miller, raised in Iowa City, Iowa, was commissioned as an Infantry officer in 1987 through R.O.T.C. with a Bachelor of Arts in History from the George Washington University. He began his military career as an enlisted Infantryman in the Army Reserve in 1983 and also served in the District of Columbia National Guard as a Military Policeman. In 1993, he transferred to Special Forces and served in numerous command and staff positions within the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Throughout his career, he served within other special operations organizations, culminating with command of the 2nd Battalion, 5th SFG(A). Miller participated in the initial combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, in addition to numerous follow-on deployments to both theaters, and has extensive inter-agency and joint special operations experience. Upon retirement from the Army in 2014, Miller worked for over two years as a defense contractor providing clandestine Special Operations and Intelligence expertise directly to the Under Secretaries of Defense for Intelligence and Policy.
Miller has a Master of Arts degree in National Security Studies from the Naval War College and is a graduate of the Naval College of Command and Staff and the Army War College.