“In total, Esper expects five nominees will have their confirmation hearings in the next few weeks, and another eight are currently undergoing White House vetting, he told reporters in an Aug. 28 press briefing. The only empty Senate-confirmed post that is not yet in the process of being filled is Whitley’s position, according to the official.
“Secretary Esper has sent a very clear signal that openings need to be filled,” the official said.
The Pentagon has also hired a new White House liaison, Ben Schramm, according to the official. Schramm, who started the new job in August, replaces James O’Beirne, who held the position for two years.
Esper’s confirmation, as well as the arrival of a new chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, this fall, is a chance to right the ship, said Jim Townsend, another former Pentagon official.
‘There is an opportunity now with a new secretary and a new chairman to try to rebalance things,” Townsend said, noting that Esper himself worked on OSD policy as a deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) during the George W. Bush administration. “He knows the role and the importance of staffing OSD policy, and that’s a big difference.’
But at the department’s lower levels, continuing turnover has left significant gaps. Colin Jackson, the DASD for Afghanistan and Pakistan, departed in July, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed. No successor has been named, even as U.S. diplomats appear to be on the verge of a historic peace deal with the Taliban to begin withdrawing thousands of troops from Afghanistan. Jackson did not respond to a request for comment.”