Top Pentagon spokeswoman resigns hours after Secretary Mattis departs

A controversial Pentagon spokeswoman will be leaving the Department of Defense, where she led communications policy and supervised more than 4,500 public affairs personnel worldwide.

Dana W. White, the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for public affairs, resigned on Monday evening, just hours after Defense Secretary James Mattis’s final day in the Trump administration.

An unexpected goodbye

“I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by this administration to serve alongside Secretary Mattis, our Service members and all the civilians who support them. It has been my honor and privilege. Stay safe and God bless,” White tweeted using an official Pentagon spokesperson profile that has since been allocated to her replacement, Charles E. Summers, Jr.

White has been the subject of a DoD inspector general investigation since May over allegations that she abused her authority and mistreated subordinates. It is unclear, however, if she left the Pentagon as a result of the ongoing probe, and the Pentagon’s public affairs office has so far failed to respond to inquiries regarding the transition.

Ethics controversy

In August, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) wrote directly to Mattis demanding “all documents and communications to, from, or about Dana White regarding her tasking other Department employees with non-official business,” and “all documents and communications to or from Dana White regarding the transfer of staff to different positions.”

In violation of ethics rules, White was allegedly using staff to make laundry and pharmacy trips, arrange hair and make-up appointments, serve as her personal chauffeur, and fill out her personal paperwork. When several staff members complained about their extracurricular duties, White reportedly had them transferred to different departments within the DoD.

White had ceased all public communications and interactions with the media since the news of the internal investigation was published on Aug. 14. The media blackout effectively made White ineffectual as a communications director, since regularly addressing the public was a crucial part of her job description.

This was White’s last social media post showing her at work with Sec. Mattis:

Final farewell

Besides sending her farewells in an official capacity, CNN reported that White sent a private farewell to some of the 2,000 employees that she previously supervised from the Defense Media Activity. “It is with a heavy heart that I have submitted my letter of resignation to Secretary Mattis,” she wrote. “I am grateful to the administration for giving me the opportunity to serve alongside Secretary Mattis, the brave men and women in uniform, and all of the civilians who support them.”

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Before joining the Defense Department, White was the founder and CEO of 1055 Grady LLC, a Washington-based leadership and strategic communications consultancy firm. She previously worked as a foreign policy adviser on the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and she was also an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal’s Hong Kong office.  

Summers is now the “acting” assistant to the defense secretary, the Pentagon confirmed in a statement verifying White’s resignation. He is a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate who serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Captain.

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