Pentagon spokesman Kirby stepping down as Carter begins transition
By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2015
WASHINGTON — Rear Adm. John Kirby is stepping down as Pentagon press secretary at the behest of Ashton Carter, the new secretary of defense who was sworn in Tuesday.
Kirby, who has been in place since December 2013, confirmed his departure at a briefing Wednesday. Kirby said Carter was looking to “revisit the role of spokesman,” including having a civilian in the position.
“One of the questions that I think he wants to rhetorically ask and consider is not just who the individual is, but what that individual represents, and whether it’s appropriate or not to have a [person in] uniform up here,” Kirby said. “And those are fair questions for him to ask as he comes into the job.”
Although it is not unprecedented for the Pentagon’s top spokesman to be in the military, the post has typically been occupied by a civilian in recent years. Military personnel are supposed to be politically neutral, in keeping with maintaining civilian control of the armed forces. Some observers believe it’s inappropriate to have a uniformed officer defending administration policies.
Kirby was asked whether he had been in a difficult position, given his military status.
“I can’t look you in the face… and say that there haven’t been some questions that obviously have tried to veer me into political discussions,” Kirby acknowledged. “But they’ve been few and very, very far between. … It just hasn’t been a big problem for me.”
Typically, a new secretary of defense will bring in his own spokesman. Carter had not decided on a replacement according to Kirby, who said he has agreed to stay on for “a couple of weeks” to help with the transition.