Though an announcement is not expected until early next week, people close to the process are reporting that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis to be secretary of defense. In doing so, Trump would be nominating a former senior military officer who led operations across the Middle East to run the Pentagon — less than four years after he hung up his uniform.
As the Washington Post reports, given the recency of Mattis’ service in uniform, to take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.
Mattis, 66, retired as the chief of U.S. Central Command in spring 2013 after serving more than four decades in the Marine Corps. He is known as one of the most influential military leaders of his generation, serving as a strategic thinker while occasionally drawing rebukes for his aggressive talk. Since retiring, he has served as a consultant and as a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University.
Like Trump, Mattis favors a tougher stance against U.S. adversaries abroad, especially Iran. The general, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April, said that while security discussions often focus on terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, the Iranian regime is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
“The President-elect is smart to think about putting someone as respected as Jim Mattis in this role,” said a former senior Pentagon official. “He’s a warrior, scholar, and straight shooter — literally and figuratively. He speaks truth to everyone, and would certainly speak truth to this new commander in chief.”
Mattis, whose nicknames include “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” has had a leading hand in some of the U.S. military’s most significant operations in the last 20 years. As a one-star general, he led an amphibious task force of Marines that carried out a November 2001 raid in helicopters on Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, giving the Pentagon a new foothold against the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Using the call sign “Chaos,” he commanded a division of Marines during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and returned there the following year to lead Marines in bloody street fighting in the city of Fallujah.Mattis continued to rise through the ranks and establish his credentials as a military thinker, co-authoring the U.S. military’s new counterinsurgency manual with then-Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus while Mattis was a three-star general at Quantico, Va.
No doubt our readers will want to hear what our own Lt. Col. Allen West thinks of Trump’s choice for this key role.“It is a great day that we’ll finally have a SecDef who’s been on the battlefield. Our men and women in uniform will have one of their own as SecDef,” Col. West noted upon hearing the news break.
Col. West also noted Mattis is a “good man, Marine and leader,” and one who will speak truth to power.
What do y’all think of Trump’s pick?
[This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]