Dead Drop: July 12

ERRANT MORAN: For Pentagon watchers, the 4th of July weekend ended with a bang.  On Sunday night, news erupted that Admiral Bill Moran, the man who had recently been confirmed by the Senate to take the helm of the Navy in September as Chief of Naval Operations, would be retiring instead.  Why?  Well, it is still not entirely clear – but Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer reportedly lost confidence in Moran’s judgment when he learned that the admiral has been exchanging email and consulting with a former Navy public affairs officer who was fired a few years ago for inappropriate conduct at a Christmas party. Sources told Defense News that the problem was that Moran was taking free advice. If that is true – the brass better not visit any bars because there is always someone there willing to tell you how to do your job.  Viewed from afar, several military experts we talked with had the same reaction to Moran being tossed overboard: Huh? Some naval gazers like the “CDR Salamander” blog were downright indignant. The consensus is – there must be more to it than that.  We await a better explanation.

HOME ALONE: You would think that the Pentagon would be going out of its way to get people confirmed and into important positions. The website Task & Purpose recently added up and found that 20 of the Defense Department’s top positions are without fully confirmed leaders.  They include the Defense Secretary, Air Force Secretary, Army Secretary, DOD IG, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, at least six Assistant Secretaries of Defense. But wait – there’s more. More or less.  The current acting SECDEF, Mark Esper, who took over when the previous acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down, will have to temporarily step down from his acting position – because of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 which says that people in Esper’s position cannot serve as acting secretary while the Senate is considering their nomination to be the full time secretary. It was OK for Shanahan to do so – because he was already #2 in the department…but dipping down to Esper’s level is apparently a no-no.  So, what to do?  It appears that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will be the Acting, Acting, Acting Secretary of Defense while Esper awaits confirmation. Actually, it is not as simple as we have suggested – but trust us you don’t want to know. Too bad for almost-CNO Admiral Moran.  If SECNAV Spencer had been temporarily kicked upstairs a short while earlier – perhaps the Acting Secretary of the Navy would have gone easier on him.  According to The Hill, the White House is putting pressure on the Senate to move heaven and earth to get a vote on Esper in record time.

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