The retired Navy admiral currently serving as the acting under secretary of the Army will be nominated for the permanent position, the White House announced Thursday morning.
President Donald J. Trump intends to nominate James E. McPherson, a retired Navy lawyer and former enlisted soldier, as the Department of the Army’s second-highest ranking civilian official.
McPherson began serving as acting under secretary after Ryan D. McCarthy left the role to be the secretary of the Army.
Prior to assuming the acting position, he was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Army’s general counsel in January 2018. As the acting under secretary, McPherson has continued to hold both roles concurrently.
McPherson previously served as general counsel to the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which oversaw the Pentagon’s counterintelligence enterprise. He provided officials with legal advice on operational and policy matters.
CIFA was controversial for potentially violating Pentagon guidelines that guard against government intrusion into citizens’ private lives. NBC News reported in 2005 that CIFA helped collect information on non-violent domestic protesters and called the agency a “superpower of data mining within the U.S. national security community.”
CIFA was shut down and its activities were transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2008, according to the ACLU. McPherson appears to have only worked as general counsel for the agency after he retired from the Navy in 2006, several years after the controversial domestic surveillance came to light.
McPherson’s final assignment in the Navy was as the highest-ranking uniformed lawyer in the sea service.
However, his first military experience in his 28-year career was as an enlisted soldier. McPherson served as a military policeman in the Army at the Presidio of San Francisco, with the Eighth Army in South Korea and with the 1st Infantry Division.
In 1979, McPherson was commissioned as an ensign in the Naval Reserve’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1981 and San Diego State University before that in 1977.
McPherson reported to Naval Legal Support Office, Norfolk, in 1991 and served as the senior defense counsel and later as the senior trial counsel, giving him the opportunity to both prosecute and defend capital murder cases.
He made the rank of rear admiral in 2002 and was ultimately assigned to be the Navy’s top judge advocate in 2004, before retiring from the service in 2006.
During his time in the service, McPherson was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer