Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command
NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation
The selection of retired Marine Corps. Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary was praised by local Republican congressmen and military affairs experts.
“The world is safest when America is strong,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana. “General James Mattis has shown from his record in the Marine Corps that he is the kind of person who will be able to ensure that America is strong and safe with him as Secretary of Defense.
President-elect Donald Trump confirmed he is picking Mattis for the job during his speech on Thursday in Cincinnati.
Mattis, 66, retired in 2013 after serving as commander of the U.S. Central Command and is currently a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
For Mattis to be confirmed Trump would need Congress to approve a waiver of a law requiring that retired generals wait seven years before becoming defense secretary. He would be the second general since the defense secretary position was created in 1947 to be a former general. Congress granted a waiver of the then-10 year waiting period one other time, in 1950 for retired Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. to be defense secretary, said retired U.S. Army Col. Peter Mansoor, professor of military history at Ohio State University.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Mattis has a strong military record but “our forefathers built civilian control of the military into the constitution for a reason and waiving that requirement is something we cannot take lightly.”
“I have great respect for General Mattis’ leadership in the military and I look forward to meeting with him and examining his record more closely throughout the confirmation process,” said Brown. “Regardless of the outcome of the confirmation process, I will work closely with the next secretary of Defense to ensure that Wright-Patterson has the resources it needs to help secure our nation’s security.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, who chairs the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee, called Trump’s choice “an encouraging step forward” that “makes it clear that President-elect Trump is serious about rebuilding our military and keeping national defense a top priority.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, said Mattis is a “solid choice.”
“General Mattis is a well-respected leader, and he’s had an impressive career.”
Mattis will view decisions from the perspective of a “warfighter in the trenches, facing an enemy,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based conservative think tank.
“Mattis is one of the greatest U.S. warfighters of his generation,” Thompson said. “Mattis is exceptionally qualified to judge and manage military affairs. Congress would have a great difficulty opposing him.”
Mattis is likely to influence Trump to back away from campaign rhetoric questioning NATO, Mansoor said.
“I think it’s president-elect Trump’s strongest pick yet,” Mansoor said. “This is a very experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent man who I think is the right fit for the Trump Administration because he will be working with a president who has almost no knowledge of national security or foreign affairs.”