While hysterical partisan critics wail at President Trump’s reshuffling of top Pentagon leadership, his new Acting Defense Secretary (SECDEF) Christopher Miller is wasting no time to implement and accelerate needed reforms. His most recent change includes ordering the top civilian at the Pentagon overseeing the military’s special operations command to report directly to the Secretary of Defense.
Miller made this announcement on his first official visit since becoming Acting SECDEF while visiting Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s Special Operations.
The civilian noted above is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD (SO/LIC)). Before this change, the ASD (SO/LIC) reported to the defense secretary through the undersecretary of defense for policy, the number three ranking civilian at the Pentagon.
Many argued that with that chain of command, special operations often got lost in the huge ‘defense policy’ office bureaucracy.
Steve Balestrieri notes in SOFREP that “since the ASD (SO/LIC) will no longer have to go through the layers of the Pentagon’s DoD Policy office, DoD Policy had been against the move from the start.”
According to SOFREP, “Miller said this move is the first step towards making the position a service secretary-like position responsible for the oversight and advocacy of the military’s special operations force.”
As SOFREP notes, this long-overdue change “effectively brings the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) on par with military departments per authority from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.” SOFREP added:
Congress’s intent was for the ASD (SO/LIC) position to be a service secretary-like job and report directly to the defense secretary “for issues impacting the readiness and organization of special operations forces, special operations-peculiar resources and equipment, and civilian personnel management.”
In a letter to then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last year, members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees complained about the Pentagon’s failure to follow through on their intent. In the letter, they specifically mentioned the need for “civilian oversight and advocacy for Special Operations Forces.“
As I described in an earlier piece, Miller is a veteran of the special operations community, retiring from the Army six years ago as a Green Beret colonel. He also served briefly as ASD (SO/LIC) on a temporary basis earlier this year. As part of Trump’s reshuffling, Ezra Cohen-Watnick is currently the acting ASD (SO/LIC).
Miller laid out a requirement to the ASD (SO/LIC) to provide an implementation plan in 30 days. “This timeline,” notes SOFREP, “will give the department about a month before the Biden administration assumes office, which will then accept or reject the plan.”
That is assuming Biden is certified the winner.
In his remarks at Ft. Bragg, Miller also added that he hopes Congress will soon elevate the ASD (SO/LIC) position further to an undersecretary of defense level since he lacks the authority to do so as SECDEF.