President-elect Donald Trump, who is currently putting together his cabinet, is considering several retired military generals for the secretary of defense post, reports said citing people familiar about the matter. A leading contender is retired Gen. James Mattis who is scheduled to meet Trump in New Jersey, transition officials said Friday.
Mattis, who served in the military for nearly 44 years, played a significant role in both the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Barack Obama nominated Mattis to serve as commander of U.S. Central Command in July 2010. At the time, Mattis was the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command based at Norfolk, Virginia.
He, however, disagreed with the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw troops from the Middle East, an area he overlooked as commander. He also disagreed with the administration over Iran. Mattis was eventually succeeded by the first African-American to head U.S. Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin. Mattis felt “badly wounded by the Obama administration,” a retired general who served with him said.
Earlier this year, the 66-year-old was reportedly sought after by some Republicans to enter the election race as a third-party candidate. Mattis declined to comment on the rumors regarding his potential cabinet post. “I’m one of the those generals who stays out of the news,” he told Yahoo News.
Trump has so far named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA director and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist.
According to law, the secretary of defense must come from civilian life with retired generals eligible for the post only seven years after leaving active duty. Mattis would require a congressional waiver in order to take up the post as he retired within the last seven years.