Pentagon's Acting Policy Chief Resigns in Wake of Esper Firing

Dr. James Anderson, assistant secretary of defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities
Dr. James Anderson, assistant secretary of defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, left, bows his head for an invocation during an honorable carry for the possible remains of unidentified service members lost in the Battle of Tarawa during WWII at Joint Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on July 17, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jacqueline Clifford)

Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James H. Anderson has submitted his resignation less than a day after President Donald Trump announced via tweet that Defense Secretary Mark Esper had been terminated, has learned.

James H. Anderson, who was sworn in as deputy under secretary of defense for policy June 8, included in his resignation letter, dated Tuesday, a plea for public servants to adhere to the mandates of the U.S. Constitution.

Read Next: Here's SecDef Mark Esper's Final Memo to Pentagon Staff

"I have had the privilege of leading Policy efforts to drive the modernization of our nuclear TRIAD; to strengthen our global posture, especially in the Indo-Pacific and European theaters; to provide civilian oversight to war plans; to oversee Combatant Command Reviews; to compete with malign actors around the world; and to develop the Department's landmark Guidance for the Development of Allies and Partners (2020)," Anderson wrote in his letter. "I have also had the privilege of representing the Department in many bilateral engagements -- at home and abroad -- aimed at strengthening our relations with allies and partners."

Politico published its report on Anderson's departure a few minutes before did.

Anderson, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, served on the faculty at Marine Corps University and the Marine Corps War College before he came to the Pentagon. In 2018, he was confirmed as assistant secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities, and served in that position until the departure of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, who was asked to tender his resignation in late February 2020 over his opposition to withholding aid from Ukraine.

Anderson continued to serve as acting under secretary of defense for Policy after being confirmed by the Senate as the office's deputy under secretary in June.

"It has been an honor to serve our great nation both in and out of uniform, beginning as an officer in the United States Marine Corps and concluding with two Presidentially-appointed, Senate confirmed leadership positions in the Pentagon," Anderson wrote. "It is clear that despite profound national security and defense challenges, America is more secure than it was four years ago. ... Now, as ever, our long-term success depends on adhering to the U.S. Constitution all public servants swear to support and defend."

Anderson's departure may clear the way for Anthony Tata, the controversial official performing the duties of deputy under secretary of defense for Policy, to rise to the Pentagon's top policy post. Tata, a retired Army brigadier general, had his nomination for under secretary of defense for Policy withdrawn by the White House in July after tweets surfaced in which Tata called former President Barack Obama a "Muslim" and promoted various conspiracy theories.

Tata's current Pentagon post is an appointed, rather than Senate-confirmed, one.

Trump's termination of Esper and his installation of a new acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, has been met with outcry from Democratic lawmakers and some think tanks, who say the president is sowing chaos in the wake of an election he is projected to have lost. Anderson is the first top DoD official to depart after Esper’s firing.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Related: Despite Nomination Withdrawal, Anthony Tata Set to Work at Pentagon

Story Continues