Serving in Washington in any capacity can be a daunting task and not one for the faint of heart. And then there is the politispeak. The old “Potomac Two-Step” politicians are quite adept at sidestepping questions and then redirecting them to speak at length without ever really answering the question. In most cases, the media doesn’t mind or even call them on it. 

But occasionally, there come along certain individuals who are generally outsiders to the Beltway and can be plain-speaking, blunt… and refreshingly honest. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ticked off Congress when he famously said, “I don’t have time for Congress.” That little statement nearly caused Senator John McCain to have a stroke, but eventually, Mattis got better at communicating with lawmakers — although he probably never completely warmed to the task. 

But Joe Biden’s nominee for defense secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin III could do worse than take some notes from how Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has handled the job. There are times when the political double-speak is needed, even preferable. But sometimes there are instances when, as Dr. Jeffrey Pelt said in the “Hunt for Red October,” we have to dispense with the bull. 

Miller has only been on the job for about two months, since former Secretary Mark Esper was fired, but has already had enough memorable quotes to fill an entire term of service.

Miller was a Special Forces officer who was among the first SF troops on the ground in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. He is a shoot-from-the-hip, no-nonsense kind of guy who can speak to politicians. Yet, he has the knack of speaking clearly so that the meaning of what he is saying is never lost in translation. Such clarity is refreshing. 

Miller spoke about the switch in Afghanistan from a SOF war to what he called the “Big Army” move toward nation-building. 

“I thought special operations and irregular warfare capability should have stayed in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the decision was made to do that. It should have been big Army, big Air Force… and I think we probably would have had a little different outcome in Afghanistan if we would have done — maintained what we were doing then and are doing now,” Miller said.

Just before Christmas, Miller made a surprise visit to Camp Morehead in Afghanistan. The camp is where the American SOF troops train the Afghan commandos who are key in the fight against the Taliban. The visit was particularly important given the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan.