What Does John Kelly’s Exit from The White House Mean For The Military?

The Long March

News of retired Marine Gen. John Kelly‘s departure as White House chief of oozed out over the weekend like toxic slime. What does it mean for the military?

Nothing good, I fear.

First, it means that there will be one less voice around Trump that speaks with understanding about defense issues, and is willing to speak up when Trump misunderstands something or makes a false assumption. That’s not good. It makes me more worried especially about North Korea, an area where Trump seems to think he knows what he is doing.

In my dealings with Kelly, years ago, I found him to be a tough-minded realist. (He seems to have unleashed his inner right-winger since then, but I never saw that.) The next White House chief of staff is likely not to be as savvy — and also almost certainly will have less military experience than Kelly. The leading candidate until Sunday was Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers, whose closest brush with wearing a uniform was being taken in by the Georgia State Police on a DUI charge. (He reportedly declined to do the breathalyzer thing and got the charge reduced to reckless driving. He also made sure the trooper knew that “I’m the governor’s campaign manager.”)

Second, it means that the Marine Corps’ stranglehold on the top of the U.S. military establishment is loosening. The Corps is losing an alumnus at the White House, and at almost the same time, Trump announced in a tweet that the current chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, will succeed Marine Gen.  Joseph Dunford next year as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it places a question mark over the future of James Mattis, a third Marine, as Secretary of Defense. He’s had a good ally in Kelly, his former subordinate in Iraq, so his job is probably about to get tougher. And in my experience, SecDefs begin to burn out in their third year, into which Mattis is heading. At some point, going home to that food bank in Richland, Washington, may become too strong a lure to resist.

DoD photo
(Courtesy of Jackie Melendrez)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Iron Mountain. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Iron Mountain is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.

Jackie Melendrez couldn't be prouder of her husband, her sons, and the fact that she works for the trucking company Iron Mountain. This regional router has been a Mountaineer since 2017, and says the support she receives as a military spouse and mother is unparalleled.

Read More Show Less
Photo: U.S. Army

Master Sgt. Larry Hawks, a retired engineer sergeant who served with 3rd Special Forces Group, is being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Friday for "valorous actions" in Afghanistan in 2005.

Read More Show Less

The Iranians just blasted one of the US military's most sophisticated and expensive drones out of the sky as tensions in the Strait of Hormuz reach the boiling point.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Lawrence Hurley)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 40-foot-tall (12 meters) cross-shaped war memorial standing on public land in Maryland does not constitute government endorsement of religion, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a decision that leaves unanswered questions about the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

The justices were divided on many of the legal issues but the vote was 7-2 to overturn a lower court ruling that had declared the so-called Peace Cross in Bladensburg unconstitutional in a legal challenge mounted by the American Humanist Association, a group that advocates for secular governance. The concrete cross was erected in 1925 as a memorial to troops killed in World War One.

The ruling made it clear that a long-standing monument in the shape of a Christian cross on public land was permissible but the justices were divided over whether other types of religious displays and symbols on government property would be allowed. Those issues are likely to come before the court in future cases.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press/Facebook)

A relative of the man who opened fire outside downtown Dallas' federal building this week warned the FBI in 2016 that he shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun because he was depressed and suicidal, his mother said Thursday.

Brian Clyde's half-brother called the FBI about his concerns, their mother Nubia Brede Solis said. Clyde was in the Army at the time.

On Monday, Clyde opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at the Earle Cabell Federal Building. He was fatally shot by federal law enforcement. No one else was seriously injured. His family believes Clyde wanted to be killed.

Read More Show Less