Photo by Army Spc. Jensen Guillory

Kemi Osukoya

January 3,  2021


In a urgent joint preemptive action, 10 former United States Secretaries of Defense on Sunday called upon current Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller to keep his sworn oath of supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic as well as refrain from becoming a political pawn that help subvert American democracy.

The urgent joint public call from former secretaries Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld was made through a strongly-worded Op-Ed published in the Washington Post on Sunday.

“As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view to the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party,” read the opening of the Op-Ed.

“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy…This year should be no exception. Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”

The public direct message to Secretary Miller from his living predecessors comes amid alleged news that the Defense Department has delayed and circumvented providing needed information to the incoming Biden-Harris transition team as part of the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine the incoming Biden administration’s defense team preparedness. 

The former Defense secretaries, which include two former Defense Secretaries from the Trump administration—Mark Esper and James Mattis, both served and resigned from office within the past four years, echoed active senior Defense Department leaders’ warnings that “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of the U.S. election.” 

The Op-Ed underscored that “efforts to involve the U.S. Armed Forced in resolving election disputes would take [U.S.] into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

“Transitions, which all of us have experienced, are a crucial part of the successful transfer of power. They often occur at times of international uncertainty about US national security policy and posture. They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.”

“Given these factors, particularly at a time when US forces are engaged in active operations around the world, it is all the more imperative that the transition of the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently. Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates—political appointees, officers and civil servants—are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

“We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final section is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the US armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.”