President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for Secretary of Defense, according to people familiar with the decision who spoke with Dan Lamothe at The Washington Post.
An official announcement is expected early next week, the Post reported.
Neither Mattis nor a spokesperson for Trump could immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.
Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.
Mattis faced plenty of competition along the way, which included retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), and others. Keane reportedly declined Trump’s offer to serve at the Pentagon, but recommended Mattis for the position.
A number of defense secretaries who served during the Obama administration have criticized President Obama for supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the White House due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
If confirmed, Mattis would oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
He may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.