As part of his overall strategy to draw from policy experience outside of the narrow “Beltway” establishment, GOP President-elect Donald Trump met with numerous generals for key positions in his upcoming administration.
Here are all the generals either under consideration or already selected for top spots.
First is retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). After initially being recommended for the position of secretary of defense, Flynn’s title was quickly shifted over to to national security adviser, which was finalized Nov. 18. Since then, Flynn has taken fire for his close relationship with Russia and the fact that he apparently installed a secret internet connection in his office while serving at the Pentagon, among other things. During his time in the Obama administration, Flynn — himself a Democrat — clashed with other military officials over his hardline stance on radical Islam. In an op-ed for the New York Post in July, Flynn alleged that he had been forced out of the DIA for “the stand [he] took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements.”
Next up is retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, frontrunner for the position of secretary of defense, even though Mattis hasn’t been out of the service long enough to be eligible to serve as civilian head of the Pentagon. GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, signals that he is willing to help move a waiver through Congress so that Mattis can serve. Mattis is lionized by the rank-and-file in the Marine Corps as a legendary figure, earning the nickname “warrior monk.” Despite his tough demeanor, Mattis is also very widely read in history and literature and pushes for Marines under his command to be voracious readers.
In his outgoing speech at the Department of Defense in January, Kelly said his greatest fear about opening all combat roles to women was the downward pressure that would inevitably follow on standards.
“My greatest fear — and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years I’ve been in the Armed Forces is, right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” Kelly said. “There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?”
Kelly has expertise in Latin America as former commander of U.S. Southern Command. He oversaw operations at Guantanamo Bay and referred those stored in the facility as “detainees, not prisoners,” in effect disagreeing with President Barack Obama’s goal to close Gitmo and ship the detainees to the United States.
“There are no innocent men down there,” he said.
Trump is set to meet with former CIA Director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, likely for the position of secretary of state, CBS News confirmed Monday. Petraeus formerly led U.S. Central Command, later resigning from his position at the CIA after he improperly handled classified information. He received two years probation and a fine of $100,000.
Petraeus has stated that if Trump asks him to serve, his only option will be to say yes.
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane recently met with Trump and told NPR he was offered the position of secretary of defense but decided to decline because of “personal issues,” namely the death of his wife.
“And I explained all of that to Mr. Trump, and he was very gracious and understanding and quite supportive,” Keane said. “But I did make a – then he said, well, if not you, then who?”
Keane then recommended Mattis and Petraeus for the position.
National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers is reportedly the frontrunner for the position of director of national intelligence in the Trump administration. Rogers points to Russia specifically as the culprit behind vigorous interference with U.S. elections.
“This was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” Rogers said, according to The New York Times. “This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
Such an appointment could put a damper on Trump’s relations with Moscow.
There are some rumors that Trump may tap retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Rosenker for secretary of the transportation.
Other generals have been active behind the scenes. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg has advised Trump on numerous defense issues, along with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Carter and retired Army Gen. William Hartzog. However, it’s unknown whether Trump will lean on any of these figures for top spots in the administration.
Trump’s insistence on considering a sizable number of retired generals for key positions is likely unprecedented, former government defense analyst Robert Goldich told The Associated Press.
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