WASHINGTON (AP) - When he resigned as defense secretary last December, Jim Mattis thought it might take two months to install a successor. That seemed terribly long at the time.
Seven months later, the U.S. still has no confirmed defense secretary even with the nation facing potential armed conflict with Iran. It's the longest such stretch in the history of the Pentagon.
There is also no confirmed deputy defense secretary, and other significant senior civilian and military Pentagon positions are in limbo - more than at any time in recent years.
The causes are varied, but this leadership vacuum has nonetheless begun to make members of Congress and others uneasy, creating a sense that something is amiss in a critical arm of the government at a time of global uncertainty.
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