The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrapped up meetings in Paris and here, and he is heading home to attend presidential inauguration events Jan. 20.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford told reporters he expects a smooth transition to the next administration within the Defense Department.
Initial contact between the department and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Defense Department transition team was about six weeks ago, the general said. He spoke with the transition team leaders, he said, about the national military strategy and about the current campaign.
“We talked about the state and nonstate challenges we have [and] spoke about our priorities we’ve had in our national military strategy,” Dunford said. They also spoke about risk assessment and readiness and military capabilities, which led to a discussion of the budget, he added.
The transition team has done “deeper dives” with the staff, and Dunford described the relationship as dynamic, with a lot of back and forth.
“My only formal engagement with the national security advisor, deputy national security advisor and the president-elect was [Jan. 12] when I went to New York to talk about some things from a military perspective that the president-elect and vice president-elect would want to know on Day One,” the general said. “My responsibility is to share options that the next leadership team can choose and to identify both the risks and the opportunities associated with the various options.”
Dunford added that his job is to provide options to the secretary of defense and the president, “and we will be prepared to do that.”
Incoming Defense Secretary
The chairman said he’d first like to have the opportunity to speak with the president-elect’s nominee to be the next defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, “to have the conversation about what it is that we are doing today, why we are doing it, what are the things that might be done and why haven’t we done them to date.”
“That gets into the conversation about opportunity and risk,” the chairman added.
Dunford said he was encouraged by a White House-sponsored “principles-only” exercise that was held Dec. 12 in the Executive Office Building in Washington. Cabinet officials and deputies sat with their proposed successors and they ran through a number of scenarios — a sort of “left-seat, right-seat” effort for the most-senior officials in government. Discussing the scenarios, the chairman said, allowed participants “to really talk about roles, responsibilities and authorities and to facilitate transition.”
Dunford added, “I was the only one who didn’t have someone sitting next to him.”
The officials discussed the Hurricane Sandy response, the Haiti earthquake response, responding to domestic terror, a pandemic and more, the chairman said.
“That discussion lasted about three hours, and despite all of the rhetoric outside, … all of the incoming administration officials and all of the outgoing officials were sitting in a big rectangle in the Executive Office Building having a professional dialogue about roles and responsibilities,” Dunford said. “It was good to be a part of it, and I thought it was a very useful exercise.”
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