When you having acting secretaries, acting under secretaries, and acting assistant secretaries, that does not serve the American public well. — Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who previously led US Special Operations Command
When you having acting secretaries, acting under secretaries, and acting assistant secretaries, that does not serve the American public well. — Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who previously led US Special Operations Command
Former Navy SEAL William McRaven says having acting officials leading the US military 'does not serve the American public well'
  • Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who previously led US Special Operations Command, said Monday that having acting officials leading the military should make the American people "uncomfortable."
  • "When you having acting secretaries, acting under secretaries, and acting assistant secretaries, that does not serve the American public well," McRaven said.
  • Following a purge of the Pentagon's civilian leadership shortly after the presidential election in November, the Trump administration filled the defense secretary post, as well as the top policy and intelligence positions, with acting officials, bypassing the approval of elected representatives in Congress.
McRaven said that the process in which lawmakers approve individuals selected to serve as military leaders is one in which the American people can be confident. He added, though, that "it should also make them very uncomfortable when people are sitting in positions for which they have not been confirmed by the Senate."

Senior military leaders, such as the secretary of defense, are typically nominated by the president and then confirmed through a vote in the Senate. This process, McRaven and the other panelists said, is one way to ensure civilian control of the military.

"Elected civilian oversight is hugely important," retired US Army Gen. Carter Ham, a former head of US Africa Command, said during the event, explaining that it is important for commanders and other senior military leaders to have the approval of the elected representatives of the nation.

"The scrutiny those commanders undergo to be considered for, nominated, and then confirmed by the Senate to serve in those positions is extraordinary," Ham added, referring to the often intense lines of questioning a nominee faces prior to being confirmed.