'I cannot wait to leave this job': Trump's defense secretary joked with reporters about the end of his term, the future of the department

  • Outgoing acting defense secretary Christopher Miller on Thursday appeared to josh with reporters, saying he "cannot wait to leave this job, believe me."
  • "Oh, did I say that out loud," he added.
  • Miller has been viewed as a temporary placeholder after being selected by President Donald Trump in December to replace Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired a month before.
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Outgoing acting defense secretary Christopher Miller on Thursday appeared to joke with reporters, saying he "cannot wait to leave this job, believe me."

Speaking to reporters, Miller made several light-hearted quips about the state of the defense industry and America's military posture ahead of the inauguration on January 20.

"And, uh, it's kind of the future of the department, even though a lot of people just want to continue doing the same old thing again and again," Miller said, according to a Defense Department transcript of the talks. "I think that's the definition of insanity, isn't it?"

"Oh, did I say that out loud," he added.

Miller, a former US Army Special Forces soldier and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has been viewed as a temporary placeholder after being selected by President Donald Trump in December. He replaced Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired in the previous month.

Esper was opposed to using active-duty military forces to quell the Black Lives Matter protests across the country in the summer, a proposition Trump made several times in leaked calls with senior officials. After his termination, Esper co-signed an opinion column with all of the 10 living defense secretaries, warning that the military has no role in the presidential transitions and that the election results had been certified.

As the end of Miller's term draws near, the defense secretary appeared to make that fact clear. 

"I mean, I cannot wait to leave this job, believe me," Miller said after being asked a question about the Pentagon's controversial and lucrative defense contracts. 

Asked by a reporter what he was "hoping to see" from US Northern Command, the military command supporting civilian assets in the US, ahead of the inauguration, Miller gave a literal answer.

"I needed to look the commander in the eye, because, you know, the president, [Secretary of Defense], me … I, whatever the correct English is, you guys can clean that up," Miller said. 

"I wanted to look the guy in the eye and get a sense for his soul, and I think he probably needed to do that for me as well," he continued. "So, you know, that was why I really felt it important to go out and sit down and have a cup of coffee with him, talk about it, small group, think through it, make sure we kinda had that mind meld."

President-elect Joe Biden nominated retired US Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for the top Pentagon position. Austin will require a waiver from Congress, due to a law requiring defense secretaries to be out of the military for at least seven years.

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