Barry McCaffrey
"We are watching the setup of people who are unqualified for office to be in control of the 2.1 million men and women of the armed forces." — Barry McCaffrey, retired Four Star US Army General
'A lot of potential danger': Trump is packing top Pentagon positions with loyalists, and people are worried because they don't know why
  • The Pentagon saw a string of high-level departures this week after President Trump said he "terminated" the defense secretary, and the administration filled a number of those voids with Trump loyalists.
  • Some in the Department of Defense and Congress expressed concerns about those drastic moves in the immediate aftermath of Trump's electoral defeat, with one lawmaker writing in a statement that post-election "chaos has now reached the Pentagon."
  • David Lapan, a former Department of Defense spokesman with decades of military service, told Insider that the moves do not make sense and that part of the "cause for alarm is not knowing why this is being done."
Top Pentagon leadership positions are being packed with Trump loyalists for reasons that are unclear and triggering mounting concern.

President Donald Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, and the very next day, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense Jen Stewart, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson, and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Joseph Kernan resigned.

Chris Miller, formerly the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, replaced Esper. Anthony Tata, a former Fox News commentator who the Trump administration sidestepped Congress to slip into the Pentagon, replaced Anderson, and Kash Patel and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, both former members of the National Security Council considered loyal to the president, replaced Stewart and Kernan. And there is speculation that more defense officials may be on their way out and that this is just the beginning — even with only 70 days until the Biden administration takes over. Trump, however, has refused to acknowledge his defeat for five days and instead baselessly claimed election fraud.

The sudden flurry of departures sent shockwaves through the Department of Defense. A defense official told CNN that the situation was "unsettling," adding that "these are dictator moves." The Associated Press wrote that "unease was palpable inside" the Pentagon Tuesday.

... "I've been shot at a lot. I've been nearly killed a bunch of times. I'm not an alarmist. I try to stay cool under pressure. Mark me down as alarmed," retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey said on MSNBC Wednesday. "We are watching the setup of people who are unqualified for office to be in control of the 2.1 million men and women of the armed forces."

Dave Lapan, a former Pentagon spokesman with decades of military service, told Insider that part of the "cause for alarm is not knowing why this is being done."

"You have an administration with very little credibility, little to none. The level of trust is very low, so people are naturally going to think the worst," he added. "And the administration isn't taking steps to reassure anyone about why they're taking these actions."