While retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis’s battlefield call sign may famously have been “Chaos,” he pledged Thursday to bring an “atmosphere of harmony and trust” to the Pentagon if confirmed as the Trump White House’s defense secretary.
“We see each day a world awash in change [and] our Armed Forces must remain the best led, best equipped, and most lethal force in the world,” the former four-star said in his opening statement.
“I will foster an atmosphere of harmony and trust at the Department of Defense and with our interagency counterparts,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services panel ahead of his confirmation hearing, vowing to leverage U.S. military power balanced against “traditional tools of diplomacy.”
Gen. Mattis’s pledge of harmony at the Pentagon come amid recent reports of discord between President-elect Donald Trump’s transition staff and the former U.S. Central Command chief.
Reports specifically claim the Trump defense team, led by National Security Adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has clashed with Gen. Mattis over the nominee’s picks to fill key roles inside the Pentagon.
Unceremoniously forced out of the Pentagon by the Obama administration over his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, Gen. Mattis was named as Mr. Trump’s pick for defense secretary in December.
Gen. Flynn, who campaigned heavily for Mr. Trump, has gained a reputation for “being somewhat provocative and disruptive” during his time in uniform, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior national security analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington, said last month.
Given Gen. Flynn’s reputation and Gen. Mattis’s penchant for bluntly speaking his mind on national security issues, “there could be some complex chemistry between him and Mattis,” Mr. O’Hanlon said at the time. “I’m not sure that’s bad, but it’s possible.”
While Gen. Mattis is widely expected to secure confirmation, congressional lawmakers are also expected to grant the former four-star a federal waiver to allow him to assume the post. A vote on the waiver is expected by the end of this week.
For the general to assume the post, he would need Congress to waive a federal law that bars anyone who has been on active duty in the previous seven years from becoming defense secretary. Gen. Mattis, 66, retired in 2013 after a more than 40-year career in the Marine Corps.