Former Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was fired because he failed to disclose details of a proposal he made with the White House that would have restored Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher to his pay grade. Gallagher, a SEAL, had been reduced in grade to petty officer first class after being convicted of posing in a photo with a corpse. He was found not guilty of several other charges, to include premeditated and attempted murder and obstruction of justice.
The controversy that led to Spencer’s Nov. 24 removal from office stemmed from President Trump’s decision to pardon Gallagher, allowing the sailor to regain his SEAL status and pay grade. Spencer and senior uniformed officials opposed Trump’s decision.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper decided to fire Spencer after learning during a White House meeting that the outgoing secretary had met with administration officials and proposed a deal that would allow Gallagher to retain his higher rank and SEAL trident pin, according to a Pentagon statement.
“I am deeply troubled by the conduct shown by a senior [Defense Department] official. Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.
In his resignation letter, Spencer cited “rule of law” in making his decision not to pardon Gallagher.
“I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline,” Spencer wrote in the Nov. 24 letter. “I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took … to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Seapower magazine reported that Kenneth J. Braithwaite II, the ambassador to Norway, is under consideration to replace Spencer. Braithwaite is a retired reserve rear admiral, who flew P-3 aircraft and later worked as a public affairs officer while in uniform.