Robert S Harward, the retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL who was United States President Donald Trump’s top choice as national security adviser, has turned down the post.
“This job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently could not make that commitment,” the New York Times quoted Harward as saying.
He added that he had "the opportunity to address financial and family issues that would have been challenging in this position” for the first time, since retiring from a 40-year military career.
Two senior administration officials also confirmed that Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post.
Earlier, Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned over controversy about his Russian ties. The resignation was quickly followed by the abrupt withdrawal of Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labour.
But by then, Harward, who is a top executive at Lockheed Martin, had decided he was not willing to take the post. He wrote to Trump and Mattis conveying his decision, two of the officials said.
Trump’s National Security Council has been embroiled in political controversy. In an executive order last month, which Trump later complained privately that he had not been fully briefed on, the president placed Stephen K Bannon, his chief strategist, on its principals committee, giving a political advisor a position of parity with the secretaries of state and defence and with the national security adviser.
Two former national security officials, who have worked closely with Harward, said he would have been unlikely to take the position without assurances from Trump that he could run the NSC free of intervention by political advisers. They also spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak about the matter.
Harward’s withdrawal from consideration prompted David H Petraeus, the former general and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to step up his lobbying for the post, according to officials familiar with the process.
Petraeus resigned from the CIA in 2012 after admitting that he had an extramarital affair.
Image: Vice Admiral Robert S Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post. Photograph: Sgt Shawn Coolman/US Marines/Reuters