James Mattis, a blunt-talking retired Marine Corps four-star general nominated by Donald Trump to be his Defense secretary, testified Thursday that U.S. armed forces must remain the best led and “most lethal” in the world, admitting the nation has “shrunk our military capability.”
During his Senate confirmation hearing. Mattis vowed to strengthen the military if confirmed for the top Pentagon position. He also acknowledged “an increasing number of areas where we will have to confront Russia.”
Mattis, a combat leader with more than four decades of uniformed service, is a departure from most recent Defense secretaries, who came from the ranks of civilian government service or politics.
Congress would need to pass a special waiver since federal law requires a seven-year gap between retirement from the military and assuming the Cabinet post, a statute designed to safeguard the principle of civilian control over the military. The last retired general to head the Defense Department was George Marshall in 1950.
In opening remarks Mattis assured senators that he recognizes the importance of civilian control over the military.