FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on Wednesday made his second major change since taking charge of the Pentagon, streamlining the command structure for the Special Forces.

One day after announcing a reduction in U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Miller visited Fort Bragg, home of Army Special Operations Command, and signed a memo authorizing the change in the command structure.

Miller, a former member of the Army Special Forces, deployed to Afghanistan in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks with the Army's 5th Special Forces Group and deployed several more times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The change cuts out layers of command to elevate the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict to directly report to the secretary of defense.

Miller said despite the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the missions in both countries would continue with the involvement of Special Forces.

"This couldn't come at a more critical moment in time as we bring our nation's longest conflict to a responsible end and prepare our special operations forces for this new era of great power competition," Miller said.

Miller on Tuesday announced that the Pentagon was cutting force levels to 2,500 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a decision that had been long-resisted by the military's senior leaders.

President Donald Trump had been pushing to bring U.S. troops home from the wars and it was the first major action taken by Miller since he took over as the new defense secretary last week after Trump fired his predecessor, Mark Esper, by tweet.

He spoke in front of "Bronze Bruce," a memorial to Army Special Forces.

"I was not going to get teary until I saw Jim here," Miller said, walking between the rows of chairs, greeting and hugging old friends along the way.

At the ceremony, Miller signed the policy change that places administrative control of Special Forces under the secretary of defense.

"I have directed the special operations civilian leadership to report directly to me," Miller said. "It will put special operations command on par with the military services for the first time."


(McClatchy White House correspondent Michael Wilner contributed reporting.)


(c)2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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