Acting upon the orders of the White House, the Secretary of Defence has fired the Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer over the ongoing debate about a controversial Navy SEAL’s right to remain in the SEAL Teams.
According to an email statement given to the Navy Times, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman stated that Defense Secretary Mark Esper lost confidence on Spencer over his “lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” adding that the SECDEF is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”
In July, Chief Eddie Gallagher was found guilty of posing with an enemy corpse. He was demoted and had a portion of his pay withheld. He was found innocent, however, of the more serious charges, which included murdering a captured teenage ISIS fighter, shooting at unarmed civilians, and obstructing justice by encouraging his SEAL platoon members not to disclose his actions.
And now, the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) is considering removing his SEAL Trident during a Trident Review Board. Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of NSWC, has ordered the board to convene and scrutinize Chief Gallagher’s suitability to remain a SEAL. Chief Gallagher is set to retire from the Navy soon.
NSWC’s decision, however, has received major pushback from the White House. President Trump, in particular, has been quite vocal in his support of Chief Gallagher.
The former Secretary of the Navy had made it clear on Sunday that neither he nor Adm. Green had threatened to resign if the president interfered with the disciplinary processes of NSWC. Spencer tweeted that “I would like to further state that in no way, shape, or form did I ever threaten to resign. That has been incorrectly reported in the press. I serve at the pleasure of the President.”
The president had already interfered in Chief Gallagher’s case by restoring the SEAL operator to the rank of Chief Special Warfare Operator (E-7) after the court-martial had demoted him to the rank of Special Warfare Operator First Class (E-6). And last week, after NSWC had notified Chief Gallagher of his imminent Trident Review Board, Trump send the following tweet: “the Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
Although it’s unquestionable that Trump is within his rights to order the Navy and NSWC to stop the Trident Review Board, his interference in what is an internal NSWC issue gives the wrong signals and sets an undesirable precedent. If the SEAL leadership is indeed denied its right to dispense discipline within its ranks, then future unprofessional behavior will be encouraged. For it seems that if a SEAL operator garners enough media and public support then he is untouchable.
The Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are administered by civilians (Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, and Secretary of the Air Force). They report to the Defence Secretary, who is responsible for the entire military and second only to the president in the national security hierarchy when it comes to defence matters.
Update: It appears that the SECDEF has decided to allow Chief Gallagher to retire with his SEAL Trident.