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Richard Spencer becomes acting defense secretary while Mark Esper goes through Senate confirmation
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.
Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.
"The senior team supporting the Office of the Secretary remains in place to ensure institutional continuity," Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement on Monday. "Notably, this includes David Norquist, the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer, who continues to perform the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford; and Eric Chewning, the Chief of Staff for the Department of Defense.
"Additionally, Thomas Modly, Under Secretary of the Navy, is now performing the duties of the Secretary of the Navy. Ryan McCarthy is no longer performing the duties of the Secretary of the Army and is solely serving as Under Secretary of the Army."
Esper had been serving as acting defense secretary since June 24, but the Federal Vacancies Reform Act prevents him from continuing in an acting role once the Senate has received his nomination. For the time-being, he has reverted back to his old job as Army secretary.
On Monday, Spencer walked into the defense' secretary's E-Ring office on the Pentagon's third floor on Monday.
"Ladies and gentleman, how are we doing today?" Spencer asked reporters on the scene.
Before becoming Navy secretary on Aug. 3, 2017, Spencer served as an CH-46 helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps from 1976 until 1981, leaving the Corps as a captain, officials said.
During his tenure leading the Navy, Spencer denied claims from people claiming they were exposed to dangerous chemicals found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, following a federal judge's December 2016 ruling that the Navy was not liable for damages.
Spencer has also staked his job on fixing the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford's electromagnetic weapons elevators. In January, Spencer told President Donald Trump that if all 11 of the Ford's elevators were not working by the end of the summer, Trump could fire him.
Only two of the Ford's weapons elevators are currently functional, said Navy spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez. Work on the other nine elevators is expected to last beyond October, when the aircraft carrier leaves the shipyards.
Esper's confirmation hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. He replaced Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary after Shanahan withdrew from consideration as defense secretary amid media reports that he and his son had both been involved in violent altercations with his former wife.
Shanahan had served as acting defense secretary after Mattis resigned in December in protest of Trump's decision at the time to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria. Trump subsequently reversed himself.
SEE ALSO: The Pentagon's path to getting Mark Esper confirmed as defense secretary is a Kafkaesque nightmare
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Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning that it's "absolutely a given" that ISIS will come back if the U.S. doesn't keep up pressure on the group, just one week after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from northern Syria.
"It's in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks, and we'll have to see if they're able to maintain the fight against ISIS," Mattis said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," set to air on Sunday. "It's going to have an impact. The question is how much?"