Dead Drop: July 19

THE HARDEST WORKING PERSON IN THE PENTAGON: No, its not the guy who sweeps the floor in the Pentagon barbershop, or the woman who decides who, among the 23,000 employees get parking passes. Nope. Our nominee is whomever is responsible for ensuring that the right pictures of the chain of command are displayed at the entrances and major offices. Just this week he or she had to put up the photo of the new Acting Secretary of Defense, Richard Spencer, replacing the one of the previous acting secretary, Mark Esper, who had to step aside while the Senate was considering his nomination.  So, Esper’s photo went back into the Secretary of the Army slot. And, we would argue – that not only is the picture hanger’s job hard – but it is important. You’ve gotta know who is in charge.  The message in offices all around the Defense Department is:  If the Secretary of Defense calls, get his name.

BYE-BYE DNI?  One of the recurring rumors in the Trump administration is the one about the president getting ready to fire Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. The speculation surfaced again last week.  Unlike previous “Dan’s gotta go” stories – there didn’t appear to be an obvious public trigger for Trump’s motivation to hang up Coats. Axios was first to report the latest rumor and added speculation that ex-John Bolton aide Fred Fleitz might be in line for the job. Fleitz, a former CIA analyst who spent a very short time on the Trump NSC staff, is currently president of the Center for Security Policy.  Since Bolton himself is sometimes reported to be on shaky ground with the president – being a former aide to the current national security advisor may not be a résumé builder for Fleitz.  According to Fox News, another candidate for the job may be outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford. “Fightin’ Joe” has a possible advantage over Fleitz in taking over the intelligence community bureaucracy – Dunford has actually run large organizations before.  On the other hand, Bill Gertz, in his “Inside the Ring” column in the Washington Times, reminds us that in 2016 Fleitz wrote that Donald Trump could “make America great again” by doing away with the DNI. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry once campaigned for president on the promise of eliminating the agency he now heads, so giving Fleitz a job he recently advocated for eliminating may not be out of the question.  Other pundits around town speculate that if Coats were shown the door – the administration might promote his deputy, Sue Gordon, to the job or, as is so often the case these days – give her an “acting” job.

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