Ricks: All I Want For Christmas Is A New Secretary Of Defense

The Long March
DoD

And so Mattis goes.


It was probably inevitable after his former subordinate John Kelly was said to be leaving his post as White House chief of staff.

President Trump announced on Thursday afternoon the departure of James Mattis as defense secretary. I am sorry to see him go — in one of the most turbulent cabinets in American history, Mattis has been something of a rock.

I think Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria probably was the last straw for him. Not just the unilateral nature of it, antagonizing European allies, but also the fact that it almost certainly was contrary to Mattis’ view of what needed to be done in the Middle East.

The odd thing is that this is the second administration in a row that has ousted Mattis over his views of what needs to be done in the Middle East. The Obama White House thought Mattis too obstinate in asking “what next?” questions about Middle East policy, and also in pushing for tough responses to Iranian moves in the region. The Trump Administration — well, it looks to be doing about the same thing for the same reasons.

It also means that all the generals Trump brought into the administration — Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly, and Mattis — will have left within two years.

So Mattis heads back to the food bank in Richland, Washington, where he worked before being tapped to be defense secretary. I am sure he feels relieved at the prospect, and also that he did the best he could for his country as long as he could.

My real worry is who succeeds Mattis at the Pentagon.

I’ve heard Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas mentioned. I know little about him but I do like that he served in the Army and did deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq in 2006 was pretty rough — I actually was embedded with the 101st Airborne a bit then, but I don’t recall running into Lt. Cotton.

Cotton would be vastly preferable to John Bolton, the national security advisor, and a man I consider to lack judgment.

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)

Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

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Audie Murphy (U.S. Army photo)

Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018

On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.

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A Purple Heart (DoD photo)

Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

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Ships from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 transit the Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2020. DESRON 23, part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erick A. Parsons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.

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Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Oscar Temores and his family. (GoFundMe)

When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.

Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.

"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."

That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.

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