Owen West resigns as assistant defense secretary for special operations

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Moulton At The House Armed Services Committee Hearing On Counterterrorism

Owen West is stepping down as assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict as of June 22, a defense official told Task and Purpose on Wednesday.

West decided to resign in order to spend more time with his family, said Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch.


When he leaves his post later this month, West will have served just over one year and six months in the role. He'll be replaced by Mark E. Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict.

No further information was immediately available about why West decided to leave. West could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

West's departure has nothing to do with the recent conclusion of the review into the Oct. 4, 2017 Niger ambush that was ordered by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Tresch said.

"The department is absolutely confident after two investigations and three reviews that accountability has been rendered in this case," West told reporters on June 5.

In February, West broke with President Donald Trump's administration when Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) asked about former Defense Secretary James Mattis' opposition with Trump's plan to pull all U.S. troops from Syria.

"Do you think [Mattis] was wrong?" Moulton asked during a Feb. 6 House Armed Services Committee hearing.

"No sir," West replied.

The day before, he said at a The National Defense Industrial Association event that he did not think the relentless operations tempo and continuous deployments over the two decades were the reasons for several criminal investigations into special operators.

"If we knew exactly, we would put an end to it," he said at the 30th Annual SO/LIC Symposium & Exhibition. "So, at some level, human failure is going to be a part of any organization, but on another level we have to make sure that we send a message – and I mean a regular message and drumbeat – about how important ethics are as a regular course of business and not be reactive."

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