Retired Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, the chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense, has stepped down, the Department of Defense announced on Saturday.
Sweeney had served in the role since Jan. 2017.
“After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense.”
Sweeney’s is the latest departure since Defense Secretary James N. Mattis left the Pentagon at the end of the year, following his resignation in December. Spokeswoman Dana White also recently resigned.
The departures come as officials prepare to draw down troops in Syria and as President Donald Trump considers declaring a national emergency in order to divert military funds to the construction of a border wall.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan replaced Mattis in the New Year. He has served as deputy defense secretary since July 2017.
Last week, the New York Times, reported that Trump was considering former Democratic senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Jim Webb to fill the position full-time. Webb served in the Reagan administration as secretary of the Navy and an assistant secretary of defense.
But Trump shot down the report over the weekend, tweeting “The story in the New York Times regarding Jim Webb being considered as the next Secretary of Defense is FAKE NEWS. I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him. Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!.”
Shanahan is only the third acting defense secretary in history, but is one of several acting officials in Trump’s cabinet.
The current White House chief of staff, Interior secretary, EPA administrator, attorney general and UN ambassador are all serving on a temporary basis.
Trump has announced nominations for some of those positions, but the selections would need Senate approval. Trump told reporters on Sunday that he was in no hurry to fill all of those positions.
At the Pentagon, several leadership positions are now filled by acting officials, with comptroller David Norquist now serving as acting deputy defense secretary.