The defense secretary “has accomplished much of what he set out to do behind the scenes and without much fanfare,” said the article, written by a fellow at a conservative Washington think tank. The essay went on to extol Mr. Esper’s “serious efforts to better align dollars with strategy” and his moves to put “like-minded thinkers in charge.”
“While all of this was going on,” the article concludes, Mr. Esper “oversaw the standing up of a new military service in the Space Force and managed a global pandemic response operation by the Defense Department involving more than 60,000 uniformed and civilian personnel during the same time as U.S. service members were ‘serving in more than 100 nations deterring enemies, reassuring allies and building capabilities.’”
Inside the Pentagon, the article landed with all the force of a dud bomb. One Defense Department official likened it to a job application, part of an effort to help Mr. Esper find suitable post-government employment should his boss fire him, as the president has told aides he would like to do.
“Throughout his career in uniform and as a civilian leader, Secretary Esper has always been and remains committed to doing what is best for the military and the nation,” Jonathan Hoffman, Mr. Esper’s spokesman, said in an email when asked to comment for this article.
On the single biggest issue of 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic — history may show that Mr. Esper has, by far, outperformed his boss, who largely refused to wear a mask and contracted coronavirus during the White House outbreak. Mr. Esper, by contrast, has strictly adhered to Centers for Disease Control guidelines on wearing masks when not able to keep a recommended social distance.
At a recent Pentagon virtual town-hall-style meeting, Mr. Esper responded to a sailor on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, who complained the required social distancing onboard the ship was hurting morale.
“It is tedious — I understand that,” Mr. Esper said. “But I think it’s showing, in terms of the Navy’s results in terms of infection rates, that they’re doing a very good job.”