Christopher C. Miller
|Acting United States Secretary of Defense|
November 9, 2020 – January 20, 2021
|Preceded by||Mark Esper|
|Succeeded by||David Norquist (acting)|
|Director of the National Counterterrorism Center|
August 10, 2020 – November 9, 2020
|Preceded by||Joseph Maguire|
|Succeeded by||Steve Vanech (acting)|
|Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict|
June 19, 2020 – August 10, 2020
|Preceded by||Thomas Alexander (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Ezra Cohen-Watnick (acting)|
Christopher Charles Miller
October 15, 1965
Platteville, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||George Washington University (BA)|
Naval War College (MA)
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1983–2014|
|Unit||5th Special Forces Group|
Intelligence Support Activity
War in Afghanistan
Christopher Charles Miller (born October 15, 1965) is an American retired United States Army Special Forces colonel who served as acting United States secretary of defense from November 9, 2020, to January 20, 2021. He previously served as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center from August 10 to November 9, 2020. Before his civilian service in the Department of Defense, Miller was a Green Beret, commanding 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later spent time as a defense contractor.
Miller's tenure in the Trump administration began as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, confirmed by voice vote in the United States Senate on August 6, 2020. President Donald Trump named him acting defense secretary on November 9, 2020, after firing Mark Esper. Miller, who took office soon after Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election, was accused of obstructing the transition to Joe Biden's administration by Biden staff.
Miller was also criticized for his response to the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol. He approved the deployment of National Guard troops from neighboring states to reinforce the D.C. National Guard at 4:41 p.m., three hours after Capitol Police said that they were being overrun and two hours after city officials had asked for such assistance.
Miller was succeeded by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist on January 20, 2021.
Miller was born in Platteville, Wisconsin, on October 15, 1965, and raised in Iowa City from 1975. His mother, Lois Maxine Miller, taught at the University of Delaware. His father, Harvey Dell Miller, was police chief of Iowa City for 13 years, and according to Miller he "believed strongly in the nobility of public service". He had previously worked as an assistant professor of law and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Miller attended Iowa City High School, before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from George Washington University in 1987. He was awarded the Gardiner G. Hubbard Memorial Award in U.S. History for having the highest grade point average in the history department. He later received a Master of Arts in national security studies from the Naval War College in 2001. He also graduated from the College of Naval Command and Staff and the Army War College.
Miller served in the military from 1983 to 2014. He started as an enlisted soldier, then was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1987, joining the United States Army Special Forces in 1993.
He participated in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, he was a company commander in the 5th Special Forces Group, which fought al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In Iraq, he commanded Special Forces units in 2006 and 2007. His promotion to colonel was approved in December 2009.
Miller served as program executive officer (PEO) for rotary wing programs at U.S. Special Operations Command in 2010. One of his last assignments as an Army officer was as Director for Special Operations and Irregular Warfare in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities at the Pentagon in 2011.
After retiring in 2014, Miller worked as a defense contractor. Miller served in the civil service as an inspector for the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight from late 2017 until he was detailed to the NSC in the Spring of 2018.
From March 2018 until December 2019, Miller served in the Trump administration as a counterterrorism advisor on the United States National Security Council, where he worked through and was involved in operations against ISIL.
In 2020, he became deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism. He was involved in designating Iran, Hezbollah, and American domestic terrorism as threats to the United States.
On August 10, 2020, he became Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Trump nominated Miller to the role in March 2020, and Miller was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote on August 6.
On November 9, 2020, Miller was appointed as Acting Secretary of Defense, following the termination of Mark Esper. The top Republican on House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, expressed concern that the sudden shake-up and installation of leadership at the Pentagon based on political fealty instead of expertise "endanger U.S. national security."
Miller's chief of staff as Acting Secretary of Defense was Kash Patel, a former aide to Congressman Devin Nunes. Patel is known for efforts to discredit investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Miller's first overseas trip occurred in the third week of November when he visited multiple military units in the Middle East and Africa to include a three-hour stopover in Mogadishu. Miller said that in addition to meeting senior military and foreign officials, he wanted to visit troops on the Thanksgiving holiday.
In November 2020, the political acting leadership of the Pentagon ordered withdrawals of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia against the advice of U.S. military commanders. Some were critical of the decision with one group calling it "11th hour of President Donald Trump’s administration, risk serious harm to hard-fought counterterrorism gains and American safety. With these recent moves, Miller appears to be disregarding important lessons about terrorists’ resilience and the value of partnerships when conducting counterterrorism, while embracing a politically expedient but strategically nonsensical notion of “ending forever wars” to appease the president during his final weeks in office." They also pointed to the inconsistency in Miller's message where he claimed that the United States is “on the verge of defeating al-Qa’ida” and noted the need to avoid “our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish,” while also making the audacious statement that “Now, it’s time to come home.” 
In December 2020, it was reported that Miller had ordered the Pentagon to postpone 40 meetings with the incoming Joe Biden administration. Miller said that this was a "mutually agreed-upon holiday pause" with the Biden transition, but the Biden transition team said no such agreement had been made. Miller's decision to halt cooperation with the incoming administration came in the wake of President Donald Trump's refusal to concede in the election, refusals by various Trump administration political appointees to cooperate, and claims of fraud by the Trump administration.
Main article: 2021 United States Capitol attack
On January 3, 2021, all ten living former defense secretaries raised alarm in an open letter regarding a potential military coup to overturn the election results, warning officials who may participate, and specifically naming Miller, that they would face grave consequences if they violated the constitution.
According to Miller's later statements, on January 3 he was ordered by Trump to "do whatever was necessary to protect the demonstrators" on January 6. The following day, Miller issued orders which prohibited deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without his personal approval. On January 5, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy issued a memo placing limits on the District of Columbia National Guard. Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, later explained: "All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions — federal property and life. But in this instance I did not have that authority."
Miller's actions on January 6 also faced scrutiny. After rioters breached the Capitol Police perimeter, Miller waited more than three hours before authorizing the deployment of the National Guard. Miller didn't provide that permission until 4:32 pm, after assets from Virginia had already entered the District, and Trump had instructed rioters to "go home".
Testifying under oath, Miller told the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill insurrection that former President Donald Trump never gave him a formal order to have 10,000 troops ready to be deployed to the Capitol on January 6, 2021. “I was never given any direction or order or knew of any plans of that nature,” said Miller. Miller later said definitively, “There was no direct, there was no order from the President.”
In a January 14 interview, Miller made a number of statements that "raised eyebrows" among the National Security press. Miller praised Russia's capabilities, saying "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."
Miller openly derided major Pentagon programs and strategies and declared that he could "not wait to leave the job." He derided the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and criticized efforts to develop 5th and emerging 6th generation fighter aircraft: He ended his comments with criticism of Department of Defense efforts to modernize innovation and acquisitions opining "a lot of people just want to continue doing the same old thing again and again. I think that’s the definition of insanity, isn’t it? Oh, did I say that out loud?"
Miller married Kathryn Maag Miller on September 16, 1989. She works as an office manager for a health and environment lobbying group. They have three children.
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