For much of his presidency, Donald Trump has backed the military, promising to support them as much as possible. But over the past two weeks, it seems that his administration has taken policies that affect the Pentagon without keeping it in the loop.
Take what happened right after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week. During a press conference, Trump vowed to end joint military drills with South Korea, catching the Defense Department almost, if not entirely, by surprise.
And on Monday, Trump announced the creation of an entirely new military service — the space force. The problem is there was no official, Pentagon-approved plan to make one yet, which is why Trump immediately dispatched Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to look into establishing the new service.
And when speaking to reporters last Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was obviously uncomfortable answering questions about what role, if any, the Pentagon may play in housing thousands of child migrants — seemingly trying to keep his department out of the political maelstrom.
This only adds to Trump’s complicated relationship with the military. Trump also surprised the Pentagon last summer by ordering a ban on transgender military service, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, and contradicting top defense officials by saying that he wants US troops out of Syria.
But the president and the Pentagon seem more out of sync now than ever, as NBC Newsreported first on Monday morning — and experts have some theories as to why.
John Bolton took over as national security adviser in April, which means there may still be some growing pains. “It’s not surprising that with a new National Security Council team there would be hiccups in communication, particularly if previously Mattis was closer to the president himself than [former National Security Adviser] H.R. McMaster,” Loren Schulman, a defense expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank, told me.
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