By: Kyle Rempfer
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters Monday that he’s not trying to delay the release of a report on the October 2017 Niger ambush, which is expected to include decisions on reprimands and awards.
“To the families, I’m not trying to delay a report,” Shanahan, who came into the defense secretary role in January, said.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis convened a review on the ambush that was supposed to include recommendations for awards and punishments. However, when that review was brought to Shanahan after he assumed control over the Pentagon, he did not find it satisfactory.
“When I undertook the role, I wanted time to review the investigation,” he added. “Really this is just an expedited way for me to make sure I have enough time to understand the reports and the details, so I expect this to go very, very quickly.”
Rumors have circulated in Washington, D.C., that the final punishments would single out junior officers, but leave senior leadership untouched for the failures that led to the deaths of four U.S. soldiers, including two Army Green Berets.
Shanahan told the House Armed Services Committee in March that no scapegoating would occur. He told lawmakers that holding senior leaders accountable was the “fundamental reason” for the second review.
During his testimony last month, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego warned that if the report continues to be delayed, Congress may subpoena it.
“We consistently have this problem where I’m asking about Niger — what happened there, what lessons we learned from it — this committee has not used subpoena power in quite some time,” Gallego said at the time. “But if this continues … I will be pushing for that.”
The Pentagon has provided no timeline for the release of the report.
A 6,300-page investigation in the Niger ambush, detailed by the Pentagon in May, said that the mistakes leading up to the attack were widespread.
An unclassified eight-page summary was released for public viewing.
The investigation, which was compiled by U.S. Africa Command, did not make recommendations for any type of punishment for ground commanders or any senior leaders.
Instead, any disciplinary actions were referred to U.S. Special Operations Command after AFRICOM compiled the report, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the command, said in May.