July 01, 2019

An Acting Secretary of Defense Isn’t Enough

By Jim Townsend

The U.S. public is rightfully anxious about U.S. policy on Iran and whether the Trump administration is leading the country toward war in the Persian Gulf. The White House has ricocheted from one policy position to another, which has done nothing but heighten the fear that the president and his advisors do not themselves agree on a course of action. As the Trump team presses for policies that could lead to direct confrontation—and as Iran turns to more aggressive policies, including stockpiling uranium beyond the limits assigned under the 2015 nuclear deal—all we can do is hope the leaders who sit around the Situation Room table know how to handle a mercurial president who does not inspire confidence in his crisis management but instead makes crises worse.

A major player at that table is acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who replaced Patrick Shanahan after he stepped down as acting secretary last month. At a time of international tension and possible conflict, you want the best minds focused on the issue and strong advisors not afraid to tell the president when he is wrong. However, senior leaders in an acting capacity, such as this succession of acting defense secretaries, have the deck stacked against them when it comes to telling truth to power. This is made still worse by President Donald Trump’s management style—he does not seem to be looking for advisors who will say no to him. That’s why there are so many empty positions in his government temporarily filled by acting officials.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

  • Podcast
    • May 7, 2021
    U.S And 25 Other Nations To Participate In Huge Joint Training Exercise

    Last year the pandemic derailed large-scale war gaming – this year it's back with a vengeance. The U.S. military is taking part in a massive joint training exercise across Eur...

    By Becca Wasser & Jay Price

  • Reports
    • May 6, 2021
    Making Sense of Cents

    Executive Summary This report contextualizes the Biden administration’s discretionary funding request for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in fiscal year (FY) 2022, referr...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn & Becca Wasser

  • Commentary
    • The Bulwark
    • April 29, 2021
    Enemies Foreign and Domestic

    In early April, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community outlined the most pressing national security threats facing the nation during testimony to the Senate and House ...

    By Carrie Cordero

  • Commentary
    • April 28, 2021
    Sharper: The Next 100 Days

    As the administration marks its 100th day in office, what lies ahead?...

    By Anna Pederson & Chris Estep

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia