Trump’s expanding cabinet of generals

The Washington Post reports: President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis to be secretary of defense, according to people familiar with the decision, nominating a former senior military officer who led operations across the Middle East to run the Pentagon less than four years after he hung up his uniform.

To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.

An announcement is likely by early next week, according to the people familiar with the choice. Jason Miller, a spokesman with the Trump transition team, tweeted Thursday evening that no decision had been made. Trump’s son Donald Jr., meanwhile, retweeted a report saying that Mattis got the job. [Continue reading…]

Phillip Carter and Loren DeJonge Schulman write: More than any other president-elect in recent memory, Donald Trump has sought out military brass to populate his inner circle. Multiple sources told The Washington Post Thursday that Trump has picked retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his defense secretary. He is also considering retired Army Gen. general David Petraeus for secretary of state, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly for secretary of state or homeland security, and Adm. Mike Rogers as the director of national intelligence. His national security adviser-designate, Michael Flynn, retired from the Army as a lieutenant general after decades as a military intelligence officer. And CIA Director-designate Mike Pompeo graduated from West Point and served during the Cold War as an Army officer.

There is a great American tradition of veterans holding high political office, from Presidents George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower to senior officials such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake in the George W. Bush administration, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and national security adviser James Jones in the Obama administration. A typical administration, though, starts out with few recent generals in key positions. Filling as many slots with retired brass as Trump is poised to do is highly unusual.

No doubt these men bring tremendous experience. But we should be wary about an overreliance on military figures. Great generals don’t always make great Cabinet officials. And if appointed in significant numbers, they could undermine another strong American tradition: civilian control of an apolitical military. [Continue reading…]

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