Obama appointees flee Pentagon; Trump left with scores of vacancies to fill

The Pentagon has been stripped of almost all of its political appointees from the Obama administration, but an uncertain Senate future awaits the candidates whom President Trump will nominate to remake the armed forces in his image. Of Mr. Obama’s 163 political appointees at election time, who included Senate-confirmed service secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, only 16 remain at the Defense Department, according to a Pentagon statement to The Washington Times. The exodus might be considered normal in the transfer of power: Political appointees are required to turn in their resignations in December. But Washington’s bitter political climate is far different today from the last transfer of power in 2009. Senate Democrats are resisting Mr. Trump and his agenda via the confirmation process. There is a chance that some of the Defense Department’s 53 appointed positions requiring Senate confirmation will be vacant for a long time. The vacancies give Mr. Trump an opportunity to select men and women who will provide the leadership, policies and catalyst for his two main priorities: rebuilding the military and defeating the Islamic State terrorist group. “I imagine DOD cares more about getting people on board than what a nominee’s vote count is,” said James Carafano, who directs foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “If Congress is just going to partisan split all the votes, it won’t damage the appointees in their relations with Congress because the votes don’t really reflect anything about the nomination. DOD has to get down to the business of rebuilding the military. They don’t have time for political posturing by factions in Congress that are upset about how the American people voted.” Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said the Trump team has been wise in giving a cold shoulder to the “NeverTrump” advocates in the Republican Party. “Loyalty to the president, especially one who was as courageous as President Trump on his position against radical Islam, is important,” Mr. McInerney said.

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