Pentagon to White House: Stop politicizing the military

popular

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan addresses soldiers at the southern border.

Photo: Sgt. Amber I. Smith/U.S. Army

SEOUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon has told the White House that the U.S. military will not be politicized, a U.S. official said on Sunday, in response to a controversy after officials directed the United States Navy to keep the USS John S. McCain out of sight during a recent speech by President Donald Trump in Japan.


The White House military office directed the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet to minimize the visibility of the USS John S. McCain, a warship bearing the name of Trump's former political rival, during the president's speech last week.

While the directive was not implemented after senior Navy officials found out about the request, the incident has raised questions about the politicization of the military, which has traditionally been seen as being apolitical.

"Secretary (Patrick) Shanahan directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defense will not be politicized," Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

"The chief of staff reported that he did reinforce this message," Buccino said.

Concern has increased about the politicization of the U.S. military under Trump. He has given a number of overtly political speeches to military audiences and the military has been drawn into a mission along the border with Mexico, which some critics have described as a political stunt rather than a national security necessity.

The USS John S. McCain controversy led acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to ask his chief of staff to find out what happened. On Sunday he told reporters that after reviewing the facts, he did not plan to call for an inspector general investigation into the incident.

"There is no room for politicizing the military," Shanahan told reporters traveling with him to Seoul.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday downplayed the incident, saying that a young White House staffer - knowing how Trump felt about McCain - likely made the request to the Navy.

"That's not an unreasonable thing to ask," Mulvaney said on NBC News' Meet the Press program. He said it would be "silly" to fire that staffer over the incident.

Shanahan said he had spoken with late Senator McCain's wife in the past few days about the incident but declined to give details of the conversation.

He said that his chief of staff did not have prior knowledge of the White House directive and reiterated that a search had not found any emails to his staff about it. Trump said on Wednesday he had not been aware of the request.

The USS John S. McCain was initially named after the late Senator McCain's father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals. In 2018, the Navy added Senator McCain to the official namesake of the guided missile destroyer.

McCain, the unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential nominee, was shot down during the Vietnam War and tortured by his North Vietnamese captors during more than five years in captivity as a prisoner of war.

Trump has long criticized McCain on a variety of fronts, and has kept up his attacks even after McCain's death in August.

SEE ALSO: Mattis Delivered A Warning About Politicizing The Military Amid Brazil's Election Turmoil

WATCH NEXT: The Navy Demonstrates A Laser Weapon On The USS Ponce

Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in their Bradley Fighting Vehicle during Marne Focus at Fort Stewart, Ga. during the week of Oct. 14, 2019 (U.S. Army photo)

Three soldiers were killed and another three injured when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over during a training exercise at Fort Stewart in Georgia on Sunday morning, Army officials announced.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. (Reuters/Erin Scott)

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday in a bid to bring talks with the Taliban back on track after President Donald Trump abruptly broke off negotiations last month seeking to end the United States' longest war.

Esper's trip to Kabul comes amid questions about the United States' commitments to allies after a sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and Trump's long-time desire to get out of foreign engagements.

Read More Show Less
Ummmmmm what? (Twitter)

Mark Esper is the third person after James Mattis and Patrick Shanahan to helm the Pentagon since Donald Trump became president, and he's apparently not making much of an impression on the commander-and-chief.

On Sunday, Trump sent a very real tweet on "Secretary Esperanto," which is either a reference to a constructed international language developed more than 130 years ago and only spoken on the PA system in Gattaca or an egregious instance of autocorrect.

Read More Show Less

The Army says it's settled on three defense contractors to battle it out to become the service's M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon replacements, but at least one other company is hoping that a bit of consumer approval could help upset the competition.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. reportedly offered a long-term plan to help North Korea develop a tourist area in return for denuclearization during recent working-level talks in Stockholm that ended with the North side walking out, according to a new report.

American negotiators had drafted a plan to help build up the Kalma tourist area, the South's Hankook Ilbo newspaper reported Saturday, citing an unidentified top South Korean diplomat. The report didn't say how the North Koreans responded to the offer, but chief nuclear negotiator Kim Myong Gil portrayed the U.S. as inflexible after the talks earlier this month, blasting the Americans for not giving up "their old viewpoint and attitude."

Read More Show Less