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Gen. Kelly Begins Confirmation Hearings as Trump’s Pick for Homeland Security

by Countable | 1.10.17

On December 12, President-elect Donald Trump nominated retired General John Kelly to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. Trump said that Kelly "is the right person to spearhead the urgent mission of stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders, streamlining TSA and improving coordination between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies."

Who is John Kelly?

Kelly, 66, was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was raised there in an Irish-Catholic family. During his youth he hitchhiked across the country multiple times before serving one year at sea in the Merchant Marine, where his first time overseas "was taking 10,000 tons of beer to Vietnam."

In 1970, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in an infantry company for two years in North Carolina before being discharged as a sergeant. He then spent four years in the inactive Marine reserves before graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Boston in 1976, at which point rejoined the active duty Marines as a newly commissioned lieutenant. He later earned two master’s degrees during his military service.

During his career as a Marine, Kelly spent time leading rifle companies, armored battalions, and serving as a special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Kelly led Marines in their assault on Tikrit and Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he became the first Marine Corps officer to be promoted to general in an active combat zone since Chesty Puller over 50 years earlier.

After his final tour in Iraq commanding a multinational force that included Marines in the Anbar province — where there was intense fighting in Ar Ramadi and Fallujah — Kelly got a fourth star when he was picked to lead the Southern Command. Based out of Florida, Southern Command is responsible for Dept. of Defense activities in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the surrounding waterways.

Kelly and his wife Karen established a scholarship in the name of their youngest son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan while leading a platoon of Marines in 2010. They have two other children, including their eldest son who is a major in the Marines.

What’s the outlook for his confirmation?

Kelly may have a smoother path to confirmation than many of his potential colleagues in the Trump Cabinet. His work while in charge of the Southern Command earned him praise from an Obama administration official in the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), who called him an "extraordinary partner" in fostering interagency cooperation.

That experience could bolster his chances of a smooth confirmation, as Southern Command works regularly with Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard (two DHS agencies) in battling human trafficking, drug smuggling and illegal immigration along the southern border and on nearby waterways. Retired Admiral James Stavridis — himself a former leader of Southern Command — called the role "perfect preparation to be secretary of Homeland Security because it overlaps with many of the missions of DHS."

But he can expect questions about his views and plans for the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), which is under the control of Southern Command. He has a nuanced view of the facility, and downplayed suggestions that it is a propaganda tool by telling Defense One just before his retirement that "Bombing the living shit out of ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, that would maybe irritate them more than the fact that we have Guantanamo open." Kelly added that if detainees were held in the U.S. “they’re not going to escape,” but legal issues around that haven’t been resolved. He also defended detainee transfers against recidivism arguments, saying that “If they go back to the fight, we’ll probably kill them. So that’s good.”

You can use the "Take Action" button to tell your senators how to vote on Kelly's confirmation.

What does the Dept. of Homeland Security do?

DHS is responsible for counterterrorism, border security, cybersecurity, enforcing immigration and customs laws, and preventing and managing disasters. It is the newest of the Cabinet agencies, having been created in 2002 following the September 11 attacks.

Among the more recognizable DHS agencies are Customs and Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Secret Service. In fiscal year 2016, DHS had a budget of more than $41 billion it and employs over 240,000 employees.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Glenn Fawcett - DOD / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(162)
  • Evan
    01/10/2017
    ···

    We are potentially putting far too much power into the hands of military officials with all these civilian postings. We need to be extremely careful before centralizing power like this.

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  • Candace
    01/10/2017
    ···

    Please throughly vet Gen. Kelly and insist that he further clarify his intentions with foreign governments and management of foreign prisoners at Gitmo. No nominees should be confirmed or given a vote without completion of their background checks. Also, please make sure he is in NO WAY supportive of a "Muslim Registry", which is counter to all the things that separate America from countries that engage in authoritarian, divisive and non-democratic behavior.

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  • Barb
    01/10/2017
    ···

    None of the cabinet level nominations should be approved until all of the security, financial checks,etc that Senator Mitch McConnell laid out in his 2009 letter regarding cabinet nominations have been completed. This should not be a partisan issue, this is a national security issue

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  • Andrew
    01/10/2017
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    Please vet all of Trump's nominees. Especially with regard to their priorities regarding civil rights and their stance regarding creation of a Muslim registry. I am absolutely against a registry based on one's religion. We saw enough of this in Nazi Germany.

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  • Ray
    01/10/2017
    ···

    Placing a former military general at the head of a civilian service will have many unintended and negative consequences. I strongly urge that some one outside the military be considered for the position and you should make this a primary goal of putting this message forward.

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  • Max
    01/10/2017
    ···

    No hearings should be happening until the ethics committee has finished their vetting. This is unprecedented, dangerous, and illegal.

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  • Kelsey
    01/10/2017
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    Please be sure to throughly vet Gen. Kelly and press him to further clarify his intentions with foreign governments and management of foreign prisoners at Gitmo. We are a country founded on the principles of being fair to all peoples and that includes prisoners of all nationalities.

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  • Julie
    01/11/2017
    ···

    All ethics investigations must be fully done. Do not allow these hearings to go forward with out vetting. This is unheard of. You all spent six months on one of Obama's appointees. Do your jobs not this travesty.

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  • Tish
    01/10/2017
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    It is unwise to place a recently retired general in charge of Homeland Security. Please do not confirm!

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  • Bee
    01/10/2017
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    There are too many generals chosen for Trump cabinet picks. I don't think homeland security should be militarized. This pick is not far enough removed from military service in years and philosophy. My vote is no.

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  • Tadson
    01/10/2017
    ···

    Please be sure to throughly vet Gen. Kelly and press him to further clarify his intentions with foreign governments and management of foreign prisoners at Gitmo. We are a country founded on the principles of being fair to all peoples and that includes prisoners of all nationalities.

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  • Judi
    01/10/2017
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    Please make sure his background check is thorough! It's imperative that these people are completely vetted. This man is nominated to be in charge of our homelands security so we have a right to know exactly who he is!

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  • Christopher
    01/10/2017
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    He hasn't been out of the military long enough to qualify for a cabinet position. Listen to the latest episode of Congressional Dish for further details. It's a wonderful podcast about bills that passing through Congress. You can find it at Congressionaldish.com

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  • Susan
    01/10/2017
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    His very nomination is against the law. DO NOT CONFIRM!!

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  • StoshTerp
    01/10/2017
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    First of all, no nominees should be confirmed or given a vote without being fully vetted. This position is intended as a civilian position. The U.S. is a democracy, not a military dictatorship. Gen. Kelly is not legally qualified. He needs to clarify his intentions with foreign governments, management of foreign prisoners at Gitmo, and his support of a "Muslim Registry."

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  • Kallan
    01/10/2017
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    General Kelly is not the man for the job. We don't need another hawkish, trigger happy director of homeland security. Do not confirm.

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  • Peggy
    01/11/2017
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    Do not approve until all vetting and ethics reviews are done. Kelly is Trump's only decent nominee, but nonetheless should be questioned thoroughly.

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  • Cheri
    01/10/2017
    ···

    Please throughly vet Gen. Kelly and insist that he further clarify his intentions with foreign governments and management of foreign prisoners at Gitmo. No nominees should be confirmed or given a vote without completion of their background checks. Also, please make sure he is in NO WAY supportive of a "Muslim Registry", which is counter to all the things that separate America from countries that engage in authoritarian, divisive and non-democratic behavior.

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  • Jennifer
    01/10/2017
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    Please have him elucidate on his ideas for "bombing the living shit out of ISIS" when they are not localized, handling human/drug smuggling which less of an issue with out neighbors to the south, and whether ensuring our own security will require us to lose freedom.

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  • Stanton
    01/10/2017
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    A military general's standard response will be to use military force. There are far too many Generals in Trumps cabinet, this is potentially extremely dangerous for the US and could more easily cause us to get in more unnecessary wars.

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