U.S. President Donald Trump selected Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, choosing a military intellectual known for questioning the notion of “easy” wars and being unafraid to challenge authority.
The president told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday that McMaster will serve with retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who will return to his earlier role of chief of staff.
Kellogg was filling in as acting national security director and was considered for the permanent post himself.
“That combination is something very, very special,” said the president, flanked by both men.
The president’s selection of McMaster to succeed Michael Flynn, who resigned Feb. 13 following revelations he misled administration officials about his contacts with a Russian envoy, sends a different signal to the intelligence and defense communities about his approach on foreign policy.
(See President Trump’s announcement, courtesy of PBS NewsHour and YouTube)
McMaster “is a big-picture thinker,” Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force general and former director of the National Security Agency who frequently criticized Trump before his inauguration, said by e-mail.
“And he stands up for what he believes. What a perfect choice for this administration.”
McMaster has earned a reputation for speaking truth to authority and dispelling the notion that wars can be won at long distance with technology and precise strikes.
In his book “Dereliction of Duty,” he criticized military officers for failing to challenge former President Lyndon B. Johnson and then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara over their handling of the Vietnam War.
(Hear from Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, from May 4, 2016. Courtesy of Center for Strategic & International Studies and YouTube)
He wrote that the war was lost in Washington, rather than on the battlefield.
McMaster also has argued that the Army needs to be modernized, warning a Senate panel last year that the service was in danger of becoming too small to secure the nation.
John McCain of Arizona, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been perhaps Trump’s loudest Republican critic in the Senate, called McMaster “an outstanding choice,” adding that he gives “President Trump great credit for this decision.”
Former U.S. Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, described McMaster in a Twitter message as “a brilliant, reasoned leader who understands both hard and soft power.”
Two other candidates for the position included Robert Caslen, the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and John Bolton, the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush who has advocated regime change in Iran.
Trump said he sees another role for Bolton in his administration.
(Hear More from Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster in a Discussion panel at the 2016 FPI Forum: An Era of Consequences, held November 30, 2016 at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Courtesy of ForeignPolicyI and YouTube)
Trump’s initial choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, an executive at Lockheed Martin Corp., informed the president last week that he wouldn’t take the job, according to two administration officials who requested anonymity because the offer wasn’t made public.
Asked if Vice President Mike Pence played a role in McMaster’s selection, Trump said, “He did.”
McMaster directs the Army Capabilities Integration Center, which is designed to implement warfighting capabilities among the military services and, as he described, “aggressively transform” Army operations.
He is also the deputy commanding general for futures of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(LTG H. R. McMaster, Jr. Deputy, Commanding General Futures/Director Army Capabilities Integration Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command leads a panel discussing how the Army works under Force 2025 and Beyond to ensure the future force accentuates the relative strengths and mitigates weakness of each component, and remains prepared to accomplish missions and home and abroad from Oct 14, 2015. Courtesy of US Army TRADOC and YouTube)
McMaster is “exactly what President Trump needs,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican. “I’m excited about this choice.
McMaster has a long record of challenging the status quo and standing up for what is right.”