It took Trump 195 days to finally nominate a defense secretary


Trump left the Defense Department without a permanent leader for three times longer than any other time in the 72-year history of the position.

The last time Trump had a permanent defense secretary was December 31, 2018. On Monday, he finally formally nominated someone to fill the position, tapping Mark Esper, who until recently was the secretary of the Army.

Esper was selected after Trump's initial pick, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, abruptly withdrew his name from consideration following a family domestic violence scandal.

Trump has struggled to fill the position for more than six months after the previous Defense Secretary James Mattis sent a scorching letter berating Trump's many failures as he left his position at the end of December. Mattis blasted Trump for antagonizing traditional allies while groveling before thugs and dictators.

The record vacancy length prior to Trump was George H.W. Bush, when the job was unfilled for 60 days. Trump blew past that record at the beginning of March, unwilling or unable to fill the position for 195 days and counting. Even though Esper has been officially nominated, he must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which could take several more weeks.

When the position became vacant, the country was in the midst of a Trump-initiated government shutdown and Paul Ryan was still Speaker of the House.

For Trump, vacancies in top positions are the norm rather than the exception. At the moment, 18 senior positions within the Pentagon are either unfilled or filled with officials in an acting capacity. While Trump focuses on exchanging love letters with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, four of the top five civilian posts are operating without a Senate-confirmed leader: secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense, Air Force secretary, and Army secretary.

Outside the military, Trump struggles to appoint and maintain top leaders, perhaps because so many top advisers are forced to resign because of scandals. Alex Acosta resigned earlier in July after being battered for previously giving a sweetheart deal to a child sex predator. Other scandal-plagued former Cabinet secretaries include former HHS secretary Tom Price; former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt; and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Trump always seems to have time to play golf on the weekend, but can't be bothered to ensure the women and men of the U.S. military have permanent leaders in place.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.