Fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Says Trump’s Order Violates Oath of Service

Mr. Richard V. Spencer, Acting Secretary of Defense , poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va, June. 25, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by William Pratt)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday. The termination comes after President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher would retain his gold Trident insignia that marks his membership in the Sea, Air, and Land Teams, or SEALs. Spencer had told reporters Friday that he felt the review process over Gallagher’s SEAL status should continue, saying that a tweet did not constitute an official order, and that Trump needed to put the order in writing if he wished the Navy to end the review board proceedings.

The Navy had sought to remove Gallagher and four other sailors from the SEALs after President Trump intervened and prevented Gallagher from being demoted after he was convicted of posing in a picture with the corpse of a teenage member of the Islamic State militant group.

In his resignation letter, Spencer stated that he believes that Trump’s order keeping Gallagher as a member of the Navy SEALs violates his Oath of Service, as well as the rule of law:

“As Secretary of the Navy, one of the most important responsibilities I have to our people is to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ranks. I regard this as deadly serious business. The lives of our Sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside.

“The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries. Good order and discipline is what has enabled our victory against foreign tyranny time and again, from Captain Lawrence’s famous order ‘Don’t Give up the Ship.’, to the discipline and determination that propelled our flag to the highest point on Iwo Jima. The Constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice are the shields that set us apart, and the beacons that protect us all. Through my Title Ten Authority, I have strived to ensure our proceedings are fair, transparent and consistent, from the newest recruit to the Flag and General Officer level. 

“Unfortunately it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag, and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Spencer went on to state that the President “deserves and should expect a Secretary of the Navy who is aligned with his vision for the future of our force generation and sustainment,” before acknowledging his termination as Secretary of the Navy, effective immediately.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News,, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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