Secretary of Defense James Mattis Takes Office (Learn More)

Secretary of Defense James Mattis
"It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense." Secretary of Defense James Mattis

A Message to the DoD from Secretary of Defense James Mattis:

“It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.”

“Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country.”

“You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.”

“Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances.”

“Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.”

“I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.”

– Secretary of Defense, James Mattis

(Vice President Mike Pence swore in Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense Friday after he was confirmed by the Senate. Courtesy of PBS News Hour and YouTube)

About Secretary of Defense James Mattis

Mattis is the first retired general officer to hold the position since General of the Army George C. Marshall in the early 1950s.

Congress passed a waiver for the retired four-star general to serve in the position, because law requires former service members to have been out of uniform for at least seven years to serve as defense secretary.

Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.

Three-War Veteran

Mattis is a veteran of the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His military career culminated with service as commander of U.S. Central Command.

The secretary was born in Washington State and raised in Richland, Washington, graduating from high school there in 1968 and enlisting in the Marine Corps the following year.

He was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1972 after graduating from Central Washington University.

He served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander, and as a lieutenant colonel, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in Operation Desert Storm.

In Afghanistan, he commanded some of the first troops to go into the country. In the Iraq war, he commanded the 1st Marine Division in the drive to Baghdad in 2003.

He was instrumental in publishing the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual when he served at Marine Corps Developmental Command in Quantico, Virginia.

He then commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force before being chosen for four-star rank as the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO’s Allied Command Transformation in 2007.

He was named Centcom commander 2010.

Study of War

Mattis is a student of the study of war. Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen called Mattis “a man of thought as well as action,” when he introduced him at the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing last week.

The world is awash in change, Mattis told the committee. “Our country is still at war in Afghanistan, and our troops are fighting against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere,” he said.

“Russia is raising grave concerns on several fronts, and China is shredding trust along its periphery.”

The “islands of stability” in the world are under attack by nonstate actors and rogue nations, Mattis said.

“Our armed forces in this world must remain the best-led, the best-equipped and the most lethal in the world,” he added.

He told the committee that he will be “the strongest possible advocate for military and civilian personnel and their families” and that he will “foster an atmosphere of harmony and trust at the department with our interagency partners and the congressional committees.”

Alliances Important

The secretary told the committee that alliances and collaborations with other countries are a necessity in this changing world.

“History is clear,” he said. “Nations with strong allies thrive, and those without them wither.”

Mattis said his priority as defense secretary will be to strengthen military readiness, strengthen U.S. alliances and bring business reforms to the Defense Department.

“Our military is the envy of the world, representing America’s awesome determination to defend herself,” he said.

“Working with you, I will endeavor to keep our unique all volunteer force second to none.”

(Learn More about James Mattis, courtesy of the U.S. Marines and YouTube)


Senate confirms Trump’s defense, homeland security chiefs

By Associated Press

Wasting little time to fill two critical national security posts, the Republican-led Senate overwhelmingly confirmed the two retired Marine generals President Donald Trump tapped to run the Pentagon and secure America’s borders.

Senators voted on Friday to approve the nomination of James Mattis to be defense secretary, 98-1, just hours after Trump’s swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol.

The selection of John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security cleared the Senate, 88-11.

At a luncheon following his inauguration, Trump said Mattis and Kelly were from “central casting,” referring to their reputations as tough-talking, no-nonsense commanders.

“If I’m doing a movie, I’d pick you, Gen. Mattis,” Trump said.

Rep. Mike Pompeo

But Democrats succeeded in stalling until Monday action by the full Senate on Trump’s pick for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont objected to what they said was a “rushed confirmation” and demanded more time for Pompeo’s nomination to be “vetted, questioned and debated.”

Republicans scolded Democrats for an unnecessary delay, noting that the move left the spy agency leaderless over the weekend.

Being lectured on the speed of nomination approvals didn’t sit well with Democrats, who reminded GOP lawmakers that they flatly refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for 11 months.

Congress had to pave the way for Mattis to serve.

Lawmakers last week passed legislation that Trump signed shortly after being sworn in that granted Mattis a one-time exception from the law that bars former U.S. service members who have been out of uniform for less than seven years from holding the top Pentagon job.

The restriction is meant to preserve civilian control of the military.

Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.

Congress last allowed an exception to the law in 1950 for George Marshall, a former five-star Army general and secretary of state. Mattis replaces Ash Carter, who had been President Barack Obama’s defense secretary since February 2015.

GOP lawmakers pushed for a speedy and smooth transition at the Pentagon to ensure Mattis would be fully in charge should a national security crisis erupt in the hours and days after Trump’s inauguration.

During his Jan. 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis described a world in tumult and a U.S. military that is not robust enough to deal with all the threats the country faces.

Mattis is highly regarded on Capitol Hill for his character and judgment — traits that many Democrats believe make the retired four-star officer an essential bulwark against Trump’s propensity for bluster and impulsiveness.

During a military career than lasted four decades, Mattis served in numerous senior military positions, including commander of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Kelly comes to the government’s newest department with years of experience working with various Homeland Security agencies.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

Among Kelly’s likely first assignments will be executing Trump’s plans for the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, which has protected more than 750,000 young immigrants from deportation.

As the top officer at U.S. Southern Command, based in south Florida, Kelly routinely worked with the department to combat human trafficking networks and drug smuggling.

The post included oversight of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Kelly clashed at times with the Obama administration, which pushed unsuccessfully to close the facility.

If Trump follows through on promises to toughen immigration enforcement, Kelly’s agency will be responsible for buttressing the screening of immigrants permitted to enter the U.S. He’ll also have to come up with the resources for locating and then deporting people living here illegally.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Kelly told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he’s in favor of Trump’s plan for a wall at the Mexican border.

But he said a physical barrier alone won’t be enough to secure the 2,000-mile frontier.

“Certainly it has to be a layered approach,” Kelly said.

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