Trump Ally To Vet Civilian Employees In Pentagon For Loyalty — Replace Those Not Aligned With President
Pentagon officials fear that a Trump ally headed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense could be there to play a nefarious behind-the-scenes role. Michael Cutrone, VP Pence’s national security aide for South Asia, is expected to spend his time vetting civilian employees for alignment with Donald Trump — and those who aren’t loyal enough could be replaced.
Foreign Policy reported Wednesday that Cutrone would be heading to the Pentagon to take the position of principal deputy assistant secretary for international security affairs and that officials fear his unofficial role is to observe political views of staff. They say this could undermine the role of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A senior administrator said that Cutrone was expected to ‘reshuffle’ roles in the OSD.
He is pushing to replace and remove civilians in OSD that are not aligned with the White House. Esper has no say in who the key people are going into senior positions.
Trump’s demand for loyalty isn’t new. Last month, Rudy Mehrbani, a director of presidential personnel under Obama, penned a piece for Washington Post noting Trump’s insistence on being surrounded by those who support his political agenda — whether or not it’s in the national best interest.
The Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) has been reorganized to focus on rooting out dissenters in the administration rather than its core responsibilities of recruiting and appointing political officials to key positions.
Former Pentagon policy official Jim Townsend warned that prioritizing loyalty over expertise could create problems between inexperienced new appointees and military and civil service staff. “Some of these true believers … they might not know how to work with the bureaucracy, they might not know the issues as well, and they’re feeling the pressure from the bosses.”