National security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is leading the crusade to stack the National Security Council full of former military figures, an approach completely opposite to former President Barack Obama’s strategy.
Flynn is following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, who not only appointed Flynn to the NSC, but also tapped retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis for head of the Pentagon and retired Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly for secretary of Homeland Security.
Both Trump and Flynn are very intent on bringing veterans into the administration, and now that effort is playing out with NSC hiring decisions, The Washington Post reports.
For Flynn, there are two main reasons for preferring staffers with military experience, said transition officials who spoke to The Washington Post.
The first is that Flynn is looking for people he can trust — and also people who he knows personally. And second, Flynn thinks the Obama administration’s NSC was stacked with people who lacked real-world fighting experience, which led to crucial mistakes and failure to execute.
“We’re going to have people who have looked down a rifle scope,” one transition official recalled Flynn as saying.
There are a number of prominent picks coming, which will soon be officially announced. Many of them are former Army or Marine Corps.
But some observers think that Flynn’s reaction to Obama’s staffing strategies may pose a different sort of problem.
“The president needs a White House staff that is ambidextrous, able to work both realms,” said Kori Schake, research fellow at the Hoover Institution. “Obama was poorly served by having staff that didn’t understand the military demands. Trump’s, if it is predominantly military, will struggle to swim effectively in political currents.”
Obama’s NSC was viewed as so ideologically driven that even his own former secretaries of defense blasted him for hiring junior policy staffers with no military experience, who would then second guess commanders out in the field.
“It was the operation micromanagement that drove me nuts, of White House and NSC staffers calling senior commanders out in the field and asking them questions second-guessing those commanders,” former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last year.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also complained that Obama’s NSC lacked staffers with real-world experience.
“I don’t think there’s one veteran on Obama’s staff at the White House,” Hagel said. “I don’t think there is one businessperson, and I don’t believe there is one person who has ever run anything, and other than Vice President Biden, none of them have been elected to anything. You have to leaven the loaf with experience, and this has not happened.”
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