Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is now the leading contender for secretary of defense in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, Politico reports.
Sessions is ]a budget hawk who opposes increases in military spending; Trump has promised an increase in defense spending of $55 billion. Sessions was the first sitting member of the Senate to endorse Trump, and heavily aligns with the president-elect on immigration policy.
The Republican national security establishment will reportedly push back against a Sessions appointment, and instead are backing former Bush administration national security adviser Stephen Hadley for the job. Hadley did not criticize Trump throughout the campaign, and has a well-respected track record on the international stage.
Sessions serves on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and is a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s plan to green-light more Syrian refugees into the U.S. Hadley, in turn, spent nearly eight years in the Bush administration, starting as deputy to Condoleezza Rice. Hadley oversaw several crucial episodes of Bush’s foreign policy, and is a respected member of the Washington foreign policy establishment.
“Everyone I am talking to is saying they will consider [joining] but only if it’s a serious SecDef. … We need to work for someone we trust and would be proud of,” one republican defense official told Politico, expressing misgivings about a Sessions appointment. Sessions remains quiet on his cabinet prospects, but sources say he has the pick of any job he wants.
Another reported contender for the job is former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent. Talent lost his senate race in 2006 to now-Sen. Claire McCaskill, and emerged as a leading national security hawk in the foreign policy community. Talent currently serves as senior fellow and director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and falls more in line with the president-elect’s defense readiness plan.
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