The Risks of a Trump Administration Dominated by Former Military Officers

The Risks of a Trump Administration Dominated by Former Military Officers
President-elect Donald Trump with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Bedminster, New Jersey, Nov. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Appointing military flag officers to civilian roles in a presidential administration is an American tradition. Beginning with Brent Scowcroft in the Gerald Ford administration, several national security advisers have been uniformed officers, and the Central Intelligence Agency has often been led by one, beginning with Adm. Sidney Souers, its first head. Three of the five Directors of National Intelligence, a position created in 2005, have been retired flag officers. Military men have also held Cabinet positions: George Marshall was both secretary of state and secretary of defense; Alexander Haig and Colin Powell both served as secretary of state.

Placing a flag officer atop the National Security Council, the intelligence community or even the State Department was a way to capitalize on the experience and talents of some of America’s most knowledgeable and tested leaders, and to bring a sense of order to sometimes disorganized agencies.

In the past, though, having serving or retired officers as senior policymakers has been the exception rather than the norm. That may be changing. As President-elect Donald Trump’s administration takes shape, he is considering appointing an unprecedented number of former flag officers. He has already tapped retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser; he unofficially announced his choice of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense yesterday; he is giving a hard look at retired Army Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state; and he is considering retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.