Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is shown at the Pentagon in Washington, on Nov. 28. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned on Thursday, citing multiple policy differences with President Trump.
In a resignation letter released by the Pentagon, Mattis said Trump has “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects. I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
Trump took to Twitter to announce the move, saying Mattis was retiring as secretary.
....equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
....equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!
Mattis’s resignation comes one day after Trump on Twitter declared victory over ISIS and announced plans to withdraw US forces from Syria. On Thursday, multiple media outlets reported Trump was planning to announce a large-scale pull-out from Afghanistan. Mattis has repeatedly emphasized the importance of keeping US forces in these countries to continue the counterterrorism missions.
Mattis's letter explains that his views differ from Trump’s on NATO and maintaining alliances, along with being “resolute and unambiguous in our approach” to nations that are increasingly in tension with the US, such as China and Russia.
The success of the nation is “inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis said, specifically focusing again on NATO and the anti-ISIS coalition active in Iraq and Syria.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote. “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
Trump picked Mattis as his first defense secretary one month before his inauguration, emphasizing his military experience as a four-star general in the US Marine Corps and repeatedly highlighting his nickname, “Mad Dog.”
Mattis served more than 40 years in the Marine Corps, including as commander of US Central Command, head of US Joint Forces Command and NATO Supreme Commander-Transformation, as well as multiple combat posts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was the first Defense Secretary since George Marshall to require a waiver to federal law to allow him to serve as the civilian military leader shortly after retiring from uniformed service.
Mattis, in his letter, pledged to stay until Feb. 28, 2019, to allow time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed. The date also means he will stay through budget hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial in February.
“I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million service members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people,” Mattis wrote. “I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.”
Mattis’s tenure is largely marked by the release of a new National Defense Strategy and a renewed focus on readiness and lethality. For the Air Force, this strategy has meant continued investment in new weapons systems, a renewed focus on training, and an ordered increase in fighter aircraft mission capability.
During a keynote speech at the Air Force Association’s 2017 Air, Space, and Cyber conference outside Washington, D.C., Mattis emphasized the importance of the Air Force maintaining air superiority after years of intense fighting across the world.
“You refused to abandon Berlin, you've fought it out so many times, you're in the skies, today, over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. And I would just tell you, we're going right on into the future with the US Air Force where it belongs, overhead,” Mattis told a room full of airmen. "That's a reality that we have got to marry and we've got to ensure that this comes forward into the brave new world that we see developing around us.”
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