Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has 'professional respect' for Russia, says he 'can't wait to leave this job'
Miller met journalists while flying back to Washington recently from various defense department sites but failed to respond to their questions coherently
He will go down in history as mercurial President Donald Trump’s final defense secretary but Chris Miller can’t wait for his time to leave the office.
On Thursday, January 14, Miller, who replaced a sacked Mark Esper in November, days after the incumbent lost the presidential election to Joe Biden, also told reporters while flying back to Washington from visits to defense department sites in Tennessee, Kentucky and Colorado that he had “professional respect for how they do things” in Russia.
According to a transcript that was posted on the defense department’s website, Miller said: “I cannot wait to leave this job, believe me. But part of me is like, I would have loved to have gotten involved in the acquisition process and try…and you know, talk about wicked problem.”
The remarks of the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center came after he was asked about flaws in various Pentagon acquisition programs, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship. Both those programs saw several delays and the department ended up in overrunning its budgets.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has 13 serious flaws
According to Popular Mechanics: “The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter still suffers from 13 serious flaws, including a gun afflicted with cracking and accuracy issues. The software that runs the jet also has nearly 900 bugs. The problem is complicated by the need to patch nearly 500 jets already built and in the wild.”
“I wanted to take that one on….F-35s, the case study. Although, I gotta tell you, yesterday we were talking to some guy, some lieutenant colonel, or colonel, said ‘what are you flying?’ Said ‘F-35,’ I was like that’s a piece of…and he was like…and he laughed, and I was like, ‘no seriously, tell me about it,’ and he was…an F-16 guy, F-35, he said…’unbelievable aircraft’.”
I’m not…I…that investment, for…that capability, that we’re never supposed to use, ‘well, we have to deter, blah blah bluh blah…Are we fifth generation? You know we…I think it’s hilarious, you know, right now, you know, ‘well we need to invest in the sixth generation,’ I’m like, we have created a monster, but you know that,” Miller added while speaking to the media.
The Washington Post reported about Miller’s confession and quoted a defense official as saying: “The Secretary often uses casual and humorous language with reporters and personnel during travel. That characteristic does not convey well in a written transcript but was obvious to participants.”
'Most epic case of senioritis ever'
Miller’s words caught the eyes of a number of journalists. Stephen Losey, a senior writer at Air Force Times, called the acting defense secretary’s remarks as “the most epic case of senioritis ever”. He tweeted, “Acting SecDef been in this job two months and already has the most epic case of senioritis ever.”
Acting SecDef been in this job two months and already has the most epic case of senioritis ever. https://t.co/q1trU4kmIt— Stephen Losey (@StephenLosey) January 15, 2021
Julian Borger, the world affairs editor at the Guardian, made a series of posts on Twitter in which he even noted that the words “blah blah bluh blah” were included in the defense department’s transcript.
Gobsmacking incoherent briefing from the US acting defence secretary, Chris Miller, today.— Julian Borger (@julianborger) January 15, 2021
Highlights include "I cannot wait to leave this job, believe me."
"blah blah bluh blah" (actual quote according to DoD transcript).
On Russia: "I have professional respect for how they do things…I think they’re played a really bad hand of card very, very well. I’m like, wow, they’re doing pretty well, and they’re using a lot of irregular warfare concepts, information..good on them."— Julian Borger (@julianborger) January 15, 2021
"The president, SecDef, me…I, whatever the correct English is, you guys can clean that up. Should have paid more attention in high school. My wife would be ashamed of me not knowing the proper preposition—and then, uh General VanHerck."— Julian Borger (@julianborger) January 15, 2021
Correction: These remarks were on Thursday on the SecDef's plane, and the transcript was put out today.— Julian Borger (@julianborger) January 15, 2021
Miller's remarks on Russia
Miller’s observations on Russia came when he was asked about the most important thing he has learned about the Kremlin’s activity “beneath the threshold of armed conflict”. What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned about Russian activity beneath the threshold of armed conflict?
“Russian? I think they’re extremely…uh…I have professional respect for how they do things…I think they’re played a really bad hand of card very, very well. Declining population, single — single source of economic revenue through natural resources. I kind of, you know, like professionally I’m like, wow, they’re doing pretty well, and they’re using a lot of irregular warfare concepts, information, all this stuff, in a way that, you know, like…good on them,” he said.
Miller recently found himself getting overruled by Trump on the decision to deploy the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to the Middle East region. Days after ordering the warship to come out of the volatile zone, Miller reversed the decision in the face of growing threats from Iran against the president and other officials of his administration.