A shakeup at the Pentagon in the middle of a contested election outcome is raising national security concerns.
President Trump dropped the bombshell via Twitter, Monday, that he'd fired former Defense Secretary Mark Esper saying: "Mark Esper has been terminated, I would like to thank him for his service." In the same tweet, the President announced Esper's replacement, Christopher Miller.
What followed was the resignation of Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, James Anderson.
Brad Bowman, a military strategy expert with The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, says he's troubled by what's happening right now. He says the country is resilient and the military ever-ready, but the timing couldn't be worse.
"I think the manner and the timing of the firing are unfortunate," Bowman said. "So, you have the Secretary of Defense being fired, then you have the number 3 position turning in his resignation as well."
Also, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Joseph Kernan resigned, citing plans to retire for months. Esper's chief of staff added to the exodus from the Pentagon.
At the same time, a new hire by the Acting Defense Secretary is drawing attention. Miller tapped Trump loyalist Douglas MacGregor to be a Pentagon senior advisor. It signals that the new leadership could help achieve the President's national security priorities, including withdrawing US troops from the Middle East soon – perhaps before the presidential inauguration.
"One sense is that President Trump wants people in key positions right now that are focused on loyalty more than other things and that may or may not be what we need right now," Bowman said.
"I think it's troubling both for domestic reasons and international reasons. I say domestically because we're in a period of transition in this country right now. Then there's no doubt we have enemies and adversaries that would like to test us. We're constantly being tested in the cyber domain and elsewhere and the only thing that keeps some of our adversaries at bay is the threat of an overwhelming response."
While Bowman says the shakeup doesn't impact our military readiness, it could give our enemies the impression of chaos or weakness and embolden them to take action.
He says equally troubling is the disputed election result and any delayed transition of power.
"Because of these legal challenges and this unusual, if we're being gracious, transition that we're seeing right now, it's delaying the transition, delaying classified briefings and classified materials being relayed to the new team," Bowman said. "And it's difficult to measure but I can say on fairly safe ground that there's a national security consequence as a result."
"I focus for a living on threats to our country and what the Department of Defense should do about them, and I'm telling you the threats are so comprehensive, so grave and in some cases increasing and difficult and onerous that we really can't spare an extra day in making sure we're ready to respond," Bowman said.
He adds, that threats will neither wait for Pentagon leadership to settle down nor for our governmental processes to take place.
"Given the threats we face from Russia, China, Iran, terrorism, we don't need a learning curve on January 20th," Bowman said.