Senator slams Trump’s choice for acting secretaries

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: US President Donald Trump’s announcement of Mark Esper as “acting” defense secretary drew sharp criticism from Senate Democrats on Wednesday. During an interview with PBS News Hour, Senator Tim Kaine blasted Trump’s unilateral decision to appoint another acting secretary, after Esper’s predecessor Pat Shanahan ran the Pentagon for the past seven months.

Shanahan’s acting term came to an abrupt end after domestic incidents concerning his family surfaced to the main stream media last week. “That’s no way to run a Defense Department,” the Virginia senator said, referring to Trump’s appointment of acting secretaries over permanent ones. Kaine went on to say that acting officials were no substitute for a confirmed secretary in terms of both “gravitas” they gain within the organization, and also the degree to which Congress can exercise oversight in that confirmation process.

Kaine slammed Trump’s alleged intention to run the Pentagon out of the White House at a time when the US was facing “several security challenges” around the world. “It’s almost like the president would rather have actings that he can kind of control, rather than have confirmed-by-the-Senate Cabinet Secretaries,” said Kaine. Kaine added that “solid advice of the Pentagon professionals have been overruled by political [judgement]”, citing the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran.

“When you walk away from diplomacy, you raise the risk of unnecessary war,” he said. Trump’s new pick for the chief role at the Pentagon, former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, is expected to prioritize the modernization of the US Army during his tenure. Esper, a strong advocate of a “renaissance” in the army, also wants to shift the focus of US national defense strategy from counterinsurgency operations that have dominated the past 18 years to “high-intensity” conflict against great power competitors such as China and Russia. He considers North Korea an imminent short-term threat to US national interests, and Russia and China mid-term and long-term threats, respectively. Esper views the shortage of qualified young people to serve in the army as the “biggest concern strategically” of the US Armed Forces. (AA)