More DOD officials resign in post-election shake up

By Tony Bertuca / November 10, 2020 at 5:34 PM

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Joseph Kernan and Jen Stewart, chief of staff to fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, submitted their resignations today, the latest officials to exit the Pentagon in a leadership purge that has followed President Trump's election loss.

Current acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Ezra Cohen-Watnick will succeed Kernan, and Stewart will be replaced by Kash Patel, a National Security Council staffer, according to a DOD statement. Patel previously assisted House Republicans in their effort to discredit an investigation into ties between Trump and Russia.

James Anderson, the acting under secretary of defense for policy, submitted his resignation earlier today and was replaced with former Fox News contributor Anthony Tata, who has been acting as the No. 2 policy official.

The senior-level churn comes one day after Trump fired Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller, who had been serving as National Counterterrorism Center director.

Stewart's departure, meanwhile, casts a cloud of uncertainty on DOD's planned transition to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden as she had been pegged to run the process from inside the Pentagon.

The department had also established a website for tracking the process, but it has since been removed and labeled "under construction."

Meanwhile, Biden today named the members of his DOD transition team.

Trump, backed by senior Republicans, refuses to concede the election, and has alleged massive voter fraud without providing supporting evidence. The Electoral College is scheduled to vote Dec. 14 and Biden is slated to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. president on Jan. 20.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) released a statement warning that "high-level turnover" at DOD during a presidential transition could pose national security risks.

"The top policy professional in the department resigning the day after the secretary of defense was fired could mark the beginning of a process of gutting the DOD -- something that should alarm all Americans," he said.