Speculating on next DoD secretary
President-elect Donald Trump says he wants to hold subordinates accountable if they don’t get results. In this vein, many are watching who he will choose to lead the Department of Defense (DoD) and whether that choice is hawkish, innovative, or more of a status quo operator. As of this writing, Trump seems to be leaning toward re-tired Marine Corps General James Mattis, also known as “Mad Dog” Mattis.
Appointing a former general to lead the Defense Department is atypical, with George C. Marshall’s appointment in 1950 by President Truman being the sole example, according to an article from military historian Thomas Ricks on ForeignPolicy.com. Ricks says that Mattis is a strategic thinker, an avid reader, a fiscal conservative, and a straight shooter.
Ricks writes: “a few years ago, after Mattis was given the bum’s rush into retirement by the Barack Obama administration, I described him as ‘a tough-minded realist, someone who’d rather have tea with you than shoot you, but is happy to end the conversation either way.’ Or, as he instructed his Marines in Iraq, ‘Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.’”
I think an innovative strategic thinker at the head of the DoD – in the long run – will be beneficial to technology and development, which in turn will be good for COTS suppliers.
Ricks goes on to say that Mattis is extremely popular among “the rank and file” and having him lead the department might encourage “career Pentagon officials” to stay on board.
For more on Marshall, Army generals, and accountability among the Army leadership I encourage you to read Ricks’ book, “The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.” He makes the case on how the Army could use more original strategic thinkers like Mattis and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus.