James Anderson, Pentagon policy head, resigns


James Anderson, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, joins a panel discussing missile defense issues at the 2020 Defense News Conference.

WASHINGTON — James Anderson, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy, has resigned his post less than 24 hours after Defense Secretary Mark Esper was forced out by President Donald Trump.

Anderson’s departure from the job — often billed as the third-most important in the department — likely means Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and Fox News guest who was controversially placed in the Pentagon, will fill the role.

A defense official confirmed the departure, which was first reported by Politico. The media outlet made public Anderson’s resignation letter in which he cites modernization of the nuclear triad, improving capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region and overseeing a series of combatant command reviews as policy wins.

Anderson ends his resignation letter by writing: “Now, as ever, our long-term success depends on adhering to the U.S. Constitution all public servants swear to support and defend.”

Anderson entered the administration as assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, but by July 2019 was acting as the deputy undersecretary for policy. Following John Rood’s ouster in February 2020, he has been serving as the acting undersecretary, a role he kept even after being officially confirmed deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in early June.

Politico cited a number of conflicts between Anderson and the White House personnel office, including a fight over Tata’s pick for chief of staff, as the reason for the departure. The timing — less than a day after Esper was fired by Trump — could signal that others in the Pentagon who have had run-ins with the White House are also on the chopping block as the Trump administration enters its lame duck period.

Tata has been serving as the acting deputy undersecretary for policy since August, in a move that was seen by some as an end-around to avoid Senate objections about his nomination for the top policy job.

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Now, it appears Tata — who faced objections over previous comments he made about President Barack Obama and could not muster enough support from Senate Republicans for his nomination — will end up in the policy role from which he was previously blocked.

Anderson’s exit, and any subsequent exits from the Pentagon, will likely lead to more calls of concern from Democrats in Congress, who have already labeled Esper’s exit as a danger to national security during a presidential transition.

Meghann Myers with Military Times contributed to this report.

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