Thornberry, Calvert, McSally support exemption for Mattis to serve as secretary of defense

The House approved a waiver on Jan. 13 for retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense under the Trump administration with support from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Martha McSally (R-AZ).

The one-time waiver was needed due to a standing law that prohibits a former member of the military from serving as secretary of defense within seven years of their military service. The House approved the waiver, S. 84, for Mattis with bipartisan support in a vote of 268-151.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leaders,” said Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “That is why the committee approved the exception that allows Gen. Mattis to serve as secretary of defense. Ensuring there is no gap in the office is important to the safety and security of the United States. I have no doubt that the nation stands to benefit, once again, from the service of this extraordinary leader, thinker, and public servant.”

Mattis served in the Marines for 43 years. Before retiring in 2013 he was the head of U.S. Central Command, directing military operations of more than 200,000 members of the military and allied forces across the Middle East.

Calvert said Mattis is overwhelmingly qualified to serve as the next secretary of defense and has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities on and off the battlefield.

“There was no question in my mind that Congress should provide Gen. Mattis with an exemption to serve as secretary of defense,” Calvert said. “While I strongly believe in the tenet of civilian control of the military, I believe that Gen. Mattis is the right person at the right time. He has the experience, knowledge and appreciation for our troops necessary to tackle the many challenges facing our Defense Department and our military around the world.”

McSally noted that Friday marked the first time in 67 years that the House had considered such a waiver.

“As a 26-year Air Force veteran, I am especially aware of the importance of the principle of civilian control of our military,” McSally said.

McSally said she was disappointed the transition team of President-elect Donald Trump restricted Mattis from appearing before the House Armed Services Committee last week, but that she spoke with him by phone to discuss any concerns.

“Given the many threats we currently face and the importance of providing stability at the head of our military, I believe providing this waiver today is right and appropriate,” she added.