President Donald Trump announced on Nov. 9 that he had replaced Secretary of Defense Mark Esper with Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Esper’s firing was not unexpected, though reports suggest that the move caught some of his staff off guard. The change is effective immediately and, warranted or not, will likely raise some eyebrows, since everything the president does at this critical juncture in American political life is sure to attract more attention than it perhaps otherwise would.
At 12:54 EST on Monday, Mr. Trump tweeted:
“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 … Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”
Insurrection or Not?
Esper fell out of favor after a June press briefing in which he made clear his opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act to deal with widespread civil unrest and rioting. “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper told reporters in what turned out to be his last press conference from the Pentagon. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
The Insurrection Act (10 U.S. Code § 252) states:
“Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.”
Miller is a veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – several as a member of the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group. Since August, he has headed the National Counterterrorism Center, and before that he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.