By John Weaver
and Andrey Romanov
There is a lot of hype generated in the media regarding President-elect Donald Trump's selections for key leadership posts in the new government and their ties to the general officer ranks, specifically for his nominations for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and his pick for national security adviser.
These appointments have drawn attention to a little-known rule that states a former commissioned officer must wait seven years before assuming the Defense secretary position, however there is no such rule that applies to secretary of Homeland Security.
Although Gen. Michael Flynn would not have been our choice for national security adviser, there is certainly merit to considering former generals and admirals to run large government organizations provided that they have the temperament to do so.
The seven-year rule handcuffs Trump from considering some of the most qualified applicants for one of the largest federal departments in our government. Why would it not be in the best interest of the United States to consider every possibility for top leadership positions?
First and foremost, all of his picks have served at senior levels and have a tremendous amount of experience in national security-related issues. All have served in combat and know firsthand why it is important to get security right.
Secondly, two of the three have commanded geographical combatant commands; one of the two has been at the forefront of our nation's importance since day one after the 9/11 attacks. James Mattis, as a former Centcom commander and John Kelly, as the former head of Southcom, have a grounding of threats in the Middle East and those emanating from Central and South America. They have controlled large swaths of money, executed military policy, analyzed threats, and commanded large numbers of troops. Both did so well. Though most of Flynn's exploits are shrouded in secrecy, what is known is that he was pivotal in executing intelligence analysis on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was seen as above reproach.
Thirdly, none of the three is looking to get rich off of these government gigs. Many men of their stature could command high salaries that would make the pay scale of the executive government ranks seem paltry in comparison. With money clearly not being a motivation, their desire to serve emanates from their interest in keeping our country safe.
The officer corps of our nation has earned the trust of the American public. Repeated polls over the last two-plus decades have shown that our citizens' trust in our military officers is at a much higher rate than almost all other institutions in the United States, including clergy, news media, teachers, and more importantly, elected officials. In fact, 79 percent of the public either had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the ability of the military; juxtapose this to only 27 percent having the same level of confidence in our elected leaders, according to Pew research in October.
If this nation, and by extension its elected officials in Congress, sees the value of veterans, and if veterans are allowed to run for political office, then doesn't it stand to reason to allow them to serve in senior government positions without imposing additional limitations?
The seven-year rule never made sense. This is true especially now, as we have a president who has no military experience and no experience in public office. Any measure that limits his applicant pool of qualified candidates is especially foolish.
John Weaver is assistant professor and program coordinator of intelligence analysis at York College of Pennsylvania. firstname.lastname@example.org