As the Defense Department looks to prepare for great power conflicts and continue fighting counterterrorism wars in the Middle East, the department needs Secretary Jim Mattis to maintain continuity and provide unique and thoughtful insight, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said Oct. 17.
It would be “inappropriate” and unhelpful for national security if Jim Mattis were removed from his position “at this morning, with the changes that we know are coming in DoD,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. Several reports have circulated in recent months stating that President Donald Trump is looking to replace the retired Marine Corps general, who has led the Pentagon since January 2017.
Reed noted that many of the U.S. military’s top officials on the joint chiefs of staff are scheduled to retire or complete their tour by the end of the next fiscal year. As these moves occur, Mattis’ presence will be “absolutely critical” to maintain continuity within the department, he added.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are scheduled to rotate out in September, while Vice Chairman Air Force Gen. Paul Selva plans to retire by July. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein are also scheduled to rotate out next year.
“If he is gone and there is another secretary of defense, you’re going to see … everybody new around the water cooler trying to figure out where the bathroom is,” Reed said. “That’s not going to be good … for national defense.”
Reed, a former Army paratrooper who spent 20 years on active duty and in the reserves and has served in the Senate since 1996, called Mattis “one of the most gifted secretaries I’ve had the privilege of working with.” He noted that the secretary offered “unique insights” from his time leading platoons all the way until his direction of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, and is a “thoughtful scholar.”
“He is somebody who I think is just so committed to the country and to the men and women he leads, that he is a remarkable and inspiring figure for the department,” Reed added. “The advice he has provided to both the administration and to the Congress has been extremely insightful and without any kind of spin on it at all.”