Trump nominates retired general to lead Pentagon
US president-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday that he has picked the tough-talking retired general James Mattis to be his defense secretary.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump told cheering supporters in Cincinnati, referring by nickname to the fourstar Marine general who headed the US Central Command, with authority over troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the formal announcement would be made on Monday.
“He’s our best. They say he’s the closest thing to (World War II) general George Patton that we have,” Trump said, apparently divulging his pick days ahead of schedule as his transition team had already said there would be no more cabinet announcements this week.
Because he only retired in 2013, Mattis would need the US Congress to waive a requirement that a defense secretary be a civilian for at least seven years before taking the top job at the Pentagon. His impressive combat record, however, may deter some Senate Democrats from trying to block his nomination.
But at least one Democrat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, has already signaled she will oppose the waiver.
“Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy,” the senator tweeted from New York.
Trump’s surrounding himself with military figures — he has picked retired general Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser and is considering retired general David Petraeus for secretary of state — has unnerved some observers who point to the country’s long tradition of civilian government.
Mattis, whose past assignments include leading Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, is known for his colorful expressions that unashamedly embrace the job of the US armed forces: Fighting wars.
In one famous line attributed to him, the general told Marines in Iraq in 2003: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Such tough talk has gotten him in hot water. He was once rebuked for saying in 2005 that “it’s fun to shoot some people”.
James Mattis, Trump’s pick for defense secretary