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Who is in charge at the Pentagon after inauguration?

January 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Air Force)
The nation will have a new commander in chief Friday afternoon, but a number of military departments will still be waiting for their permanent leadership replacements under the new administration.

In the meantime, officials from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team outlined who will man a host of key Pentagon posts while nominees await Senate confirmation votes in the weeks to come.

The most prominent name — and the one who will likely spend the least time in his interim office — is Bob Work, the deputy defense secretary who will become acting defense secretary after Trump’s swearing in at noon.

But the Senate is expected to confirm retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as the Trump’s top civilian defense official after the inauguration ceremonies are finished. That would mean that Work would only be in charge of the military for a few hours.

The acting service secretaries will spend more time in their roles. Trump has only announced his pick for one replacement — Army Secretary nominee Vincent Viola — and no timetable has been announced for his confirmation hearing.

Until Viola is in place, Robert Speer will serve as acting Army secretary. He is currently assistant secretary for financial management at the service.

Sean Stackley, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, will serve as acting Navy secretary until a replacement is confirmed. Lisa Disbrow, the Air Force’s current undersecretary, will temporarily take over the service’s top job.

Nearly 50 other defense civilian leaders will also stay in place temporarily at the Pentagon, filling deputy and assistant secretary roles until replacements are named. But the shuffling will leave some key posts vacant for now, including the department’s principal deputy undersecretary for policy and and principal deputy undersecretary for personnel.

It’s also unclear how many of the temporary leadership officials may be considered for promotions to a full-time role, given their past experience with military bureaucracy.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
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