By a 98-1 vote, the 115th U.S. Senate confirmed retired Marine Corps Gen. James Norman “Mad Dog” Mattis to be the 26th secretary of defense Jan. 20, and Vice President Michael R. Pence administered his oath of office shortly afterward.
Mattis is the first retired general officer to hold the position since General of the Army George C. Marshall in the early 1950s. Congress passed a waiver for the retired four-star general to serve in the position because law requires former service members to have been out of uniform for at least seven years to serve as defense secretary.
Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013. The former CENTCOM commander previously led I MEF, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War as well as 1/7 Marines in the Persian Gulf War. He reportedly carried a worn copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius throughout his deployments while his extensive library has earned him a reputation as something of a warrior monk.
His first message:
Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Release No: NR-020-17
Jan. 20, 2017
It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.
I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.