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senate Bill S. 84

Should General Mattis be Granted a Waiver to Serve as Secretary of Defense?

Argument in favor

General Mattis served the Marine Corps with distinction and is an impeccable choice to serve as Secretary of Defense. His record merits a waiver, and there’s no reason to think he’d undermine the tradition of civilian control of the military.

Dave's Opinion
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01/12/2017
Warrior Monk. The only one, I feel, who has the stones to tell POTUS "no"
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Loraki's Opinion
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01/12/2017
ABSOLUTELY! I think America would be very fortunate to have General Mattis as our Secretary of Defense! For you liberals who are concerned that our military should remain under civilian control, I think it's ironic that you elected a SOCIALIST as Commander in Chief! But then I guess it's only natural for Democommies to fear the possibility of being stopped in their tracks by patriotic gun-toting Americans! Here's a little story about Gen. Mattis' character: When James Mattis Gave Away His Dinner A story of character. 5:30 AM, DEC 31, 2016 | By FRANCES TILNEY BURKE Character is often revealed in seemingly small gestures. Amid all the speculation about how retired Marine general James Mattis will manage to lead the behemoth called the Department of Defense, one personal experience I had a decade ago as a young staffer in the office of the Secretary of Defense sticks in my mind as a demonstration of Mattis's natural leadership ability. It was also an act of pure kindness I have never forgotten. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as large numbers of wounded warriors started to come home to the United States to recuperate at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, my boss, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy secretary of Defense, wanted the wounded service members and their families to know how much their sacrifices were appreciated. In addition to regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, he frequently attended "Friday night dinners" hosted by two Vietnam veterans at a local restaurant they owned. There, he met some of the wounded service members and their families, particularly to learn about the challenges they faced trying to deal with a "nineteenth century bureaucracy" so unlike the twenty-first century medical care they were getting from some gifted military doctors. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/18/AR2008101801513.html Accompanied by his close friend and senior military assistant, Brigadier General Frank Helmick, the pair were often able to assist the wounded warriors in overcoming an obstinate bureaucracy. The Friday night dinners inspired the idea of hosting a dinner at the Pentagon, a place where many of these wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines had never been before. It would give them a chance to meet senior decision makers, both military and civilian, and share some of their intensely personal experiences of the war. For this unusual dinner, elegant tables were set in the hallway of the Pentagon's E Ring. As immediate office staff, we were expected to serve the wounded warriors their dinner, help them to their seats, and attend to whatever they needed. A small Army band played at the top of the stairs and my Army friend—who years later became my husband—helped his fellow officers bring service members no longer able to use their legs up the stairs. It may sound like a surprisingly festive occasion for a group of people who had little to be thankful for—except that they were still alive. But it was indeed festive. Then-Lieutenant General Mattis—who, as a two-star, had commanded the First Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq— was there among the senior military leaders, incredibly gracious spending time with all the young men (there were no women yet among the wounded at that point) and kneeling down to hear their stories. I wasn't supposed to eat dinner there—just help serve it—but General Mattis insisted that I sit at his table, probably to break up the all-male atmosphere. A young soldier, probably no more than 18, was at our table. He was starving and devoured his beautiful dinner in just a few minutes. I will never forget the moment when General Mattis took his own untouched meal, cleared the young soldier's plate himself, and gave him a fresh plate of his food. Mattis went without dinner that night, not making a big deal out of it, keeping the table laughing, and making sure all those young warriors were attended to. I can't write this story without tears coming to my eyes. It was a happy dinner but also touched by so much sadness. People's lives had been profoundly changed by the war. But General Mattis was just doing what he saw as his job: taking care of those who had served him and their country so bravely, and not once looking for recognition. That small act gives me great faith in what he can do as Secretary of Defense. It shows, I believe, that Mattis will look for leaders at the Pentagon who have the service of the nation in mind, not the kind of parochial posturing that was evident in the very public debate about the Navy's budget priorities earlier this year. http://www.defensenews.com/articles/defense-navy-secretaries-spar-over-budget I read once in a Harvard Business Review article, urging the private sector to ape some of the leadership skills fostered in the military, that "The best leadership—whether in peacetime or war—is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve." I am confident that Mattis indeed has this "conscientious obligation to serve," which can only mean goodness for an organization as large as the Department of Defense, and those chosen to serve as senior staff. https://hbr.org/2009/02/why-the-military-produces-grea Frances Tilney Burke was a special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration. She currently pursues graduate studies at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, focusing on international security studies and the history of U.S. foreign relations. http://www.weeklystandard.com/when-james-mattis-gave-away-his-dinner/article/2006091
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Michael's Opinion
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01/12/2017
Having a civilian with zero military experience lead the military is probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
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Argument opposed

General Mattis shouldn’t be granted a waiver, as civilian control of the military is too important a tradition to gamble on a general who only retired a little more than three years ago and the seven year standard should remain.

SouthernGal's Opinion
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01/12/2017
The rule is there for a good reason. Civilian control of the military is too important to change the law now.
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Kent's Opinion
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01/12/2017
The law is in place to prevent conflicts of interest. Do not grant waiver.
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Jamie's Opinion
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01/12/2017
Why are we making special rules for trumps administration.
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bill Progress


  • EnactedJanuary 20th, 2017
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed January 13th, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 268 Yea / 151 Nay
  • The senate Passed January 12th, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 81 Yea / 17 Nay
      senate Committees
      Committee on Armed Services
    IntroducedJanuary 10th, 2017

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What is Senate Bill S. 84?

This bill would create an exception to the rule that prevents people who have been active duty military officers in the last seven years from serving as Secretary of Defense. It would only allow retired Marine Corps General James Mattis to serve in the role — who left the service in 2013 — as he has been nominated to do so by President-elect Trump. Any other person nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense would require a separate waiver.

Impact

General Mattis; the Dept. of Defense in the Trump administration.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 84

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke highly of General Mattis, calling him “a leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable.”

Only one waiver has been granted for a Secretary of Defense who recently retired from the military — it went to General George Marshall, who was Army Chief of Staff during World War II. When the post was first created in 1947, a Secretary of Defense nominee had to be retired from the military for 10 years, but Marshall was granted a waiver despite having retired four years prior. The underlying law was left intact despite the waiver, but in 2008 the requirement was shortened to seven years.

Some Democrats have expressed opposition to a waiver for Mattis, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) saying that “civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy.” Despite that, the Senate approved the waiver on a bipartisan 81-17 vote.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Cherie Cullen - DOD / Public Domain)

Official Title

A bill to provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces.

    Warrior Monk. The only one, I feel, who has the stones to tell POTUS "no"
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    The rule is there for a good reason. Civilian control of the military is too important to change the law now.
    Like (178)
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    The law is in place to prevent conflicts of interest. Do not grant waiver.
    Like (108)
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    ABSOLUTELY! I think America would be very fortunate to have General Mattis as our Secretary of Defense! For you liberals who are concerned that our military should remain under civilian control, I think it's ironic that you elected a SOCIALIST as Commander in Chief! But then I guess it's only natural for Democommies to fear the possibility of being stopped in their tracks by patriotic gun-toting Americans! Here's a little story about Gen. Mattis' character: When James Mattis Gave Away His Dinner A story of character. 5:30 AM, DEC 31, 2016 | By FRANCES TILNEY BURKE Character is often revealed in seemingly small gestures. Amid all the speculation about how retired Marine general James Mattis will manage to lead the behemoth called the Department of Defense, one personal experience I had a decade ago as a young staffer in the office of the Secretary of Defense sticks in my mind as a demonstration of Mattis's natural leadership ability. It was also an act of pure kindness I have never forgotten. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as large numbers of wounded warriors started to come home to the United States to recuperate at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, my boss, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy secretary of Defense, wanted the wounded service members and their families to know how much their sacrifices were appreciated. In addition to regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, he frequently attended "Friday night dinners" hosted by two Vietnam veterans at a local restaurant they owned. There, he met some of the wounded service members and their families, particularly to learn about the challenges they faced trying to deal with a "nineteenth century bureaucracy" so unlike the twenty-first century medical care they were getting from some gifted military doctors. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/18/AR2008101801513.html Accompanied by his close friend and senior military assistant, Brigadier General Frank Helmick, the pair were often able to assist the wounded warriors in overcoming an obstinate bureaucracy. The Friday night dinners inspired the idea of hosting a dinner at the Pentagon, a place where many of these wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines had never been before. It would give them a chance to meet senior decision makers, both military and civilian, and share some of their intensely personal experiences of the war. For this unusual dinner, elegant tables were set in the hallway of the Pentagon's E Ring. As immediate office staff, we were expected to serve the wounded warriors their dinner, help them to their seats, and attend to whatever they needed. A small Army band played at the top of the stairs and my Army friend—who years later became my husband—helped his fellow officers bring service members no longer able to use their legs up the stairs. It may sound like a surprisingly festive occasion for a group of people who had little to be thankful for—except that they were still alive. But it was indeed festive. Then-Lieutenant General Mattis—who, as a two-star, had commanded the First Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq— was there among the senior military leaders, incredibly gracious spending time with all the young men (there were no women yet among the wounded at that point) and kneeling down to hear their stories. I wasn't supposed to eat dinner there—just help serve it—but General Mattis insisted that I sit at his table, probably to break up the all-male atmosphere. A young soldier, probably no more than 18, was at our table. He was starving and devoured his beautiful dinner in just a few minutes. I will never forget the moment when General Mattis took his own untouched meal, cleared the young soldier's plate himself, and gave him a fresh plate of his food. Mattis went without dinner that night, not making a big deal out of it, keeping the table laughing, and making sure all those young warriors were attended to. I can't write this story without tears coming to my eyes. It was a happy dinner but also touched by so much sadness. People's lives had been profoundly changed by the war. But General Mattis was just doing what he saw as his job: taking care of those who had served him and their country so bravely, and not once looking for recognition. That small act gives me great faith in what he can do as Secretary of Defense. It shows, I believe, that Mattis will look for leaders at the Pentagon who have the service of the nation in mind, not the kind of parochial posturing that was evident in the very public debate about the Navy's budget priorities earlier this year. http://www.defensenews.com/articles/defense-navy-secretaries-spar-over-budget I read once in a Harvard Business Review article, urging the private sector to ape some of the leadership skills fostered in the military, that "The best leadership—whether in peacetime or war—is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve." I am confident that Mattis indeed has this "conscientious obligation to serve," which can only mean goodness for an organization as large as the Department of Defense, and those chosen to serve as senior staff. https://hbr.org/2009/02/why-the-military-produces-grea Frances Tilney Burke was a special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration. She currently pursues graduate studies at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, focusing on international security studies and the history of U.S. foreign relations. http://www.weeklystandard.com/when-james-mattis-gave-away-his-dinner/article/2006091
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    Why are we making special rules for trumps administration.
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    What is the justification for creating an exception to this rule? Because the president-elect wants to? Why is that a good-enough reason? Does it mean that any future president-elect can also make this exception? If not, why not? Are we just going to cherry-pick the rules we like and do away with the ones we don't? Is this what the framers of the Constitution had in mind? Is this the kind of country we want to have? If it is, then what's the difference between us and Russia or North Korea? This is dangerous ground. General Mattis may be an exemplary candidate for this position, but it's not about how well qualified he is. He is simply ineligible. Period. There are a myriad of other, qualified AND eligible, choices. If the rule needs to be changed, then let's look at the rule, but let's not change it just because we like a particular candidate, or because the president-elect wants to. Opposing this choice does NOT mean that one is in favor of having someone with no experience in the position; that's a straw man. And personal anecdotes may be touching, but they are not a basis for going against the Constitution and eroding civilian control of the military. If we start breaking the rules for the people we like and enforcing them for the people we don't like, then we are, in fact, abandoning logic and reason in favor of oligarchy. That is exactly what the Founders sought to avoid by setting up the Constitution in the way that they did. (Ad hominem attacks do not change this reasoning. Calling people names might be fun, but it does not make their argument invalid. If we give in to the temptation to simply attack those who disagree with us, instead of using reason and logic and listening to each other, then we don't deserve to keep this republic, as Benjamin Franklin warned. Also, Obama is not a foreign socialist giving away free health care. That was Jesus.)
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    The rules were put in place for a reason. I think having a military background is a good thing for this position however you have to wait for 7 years after serving. Period. I'm sure there are other qualified people out there.
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    There is a reason for waiting 7 yrs. why should he be different?
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    Follow the goddamn rules
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    The rules are in place for a reason
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    I personally favor the original 10 year rule. Mattis has retired too recently to not still be connected to others and have conflicts of interest. I agree he's strong enough to tell POTUS "no", but he's not far enough removed from active service to really say he'd be exercising civilian control. I'd be more willing to consider a waiver had he been serving as one of the Joint Chiefs which is already more of a policy making position.
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    Serving with distinction or not, the law is the law.
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    The Rule is there for reason. Civilian Control of military is essential
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    Donald Trump WILL give unconstitutional orders to the military. It's not a matter of if, only when and how often. We need to ensure the military will refuse orders that violate the constitution. In my view, forcing trump to pick a secretary of defense who is not from the military is the best way to create that separation where they generals won't let personal loyalty get in the way of their refusing unconstitutional orders.
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    There is no reason to make an exception - this is dangerous. And I served my country in the United States Army for 26 years. There is a reason we have these laws in place. Someone who served with, or commanded, generals still there might exert undue influence or use/abuse that trust. This isn't about Mattis. It's about defending a democracy that is arguably about to face it's most severe test since our civil war. And to those who defend this by labeling folks (e.g., "you liberals,"), they are simply demonstrating their ignorance of the numerous checks and balances which attempt to keep our form of government honest and accountable and which this incoming administration seems to disdain. This is dangerous. And I would hold the same position if it were a democratic or independent president attempting to skirt the law as well. This has nothing to do with being blue or red. It is what we must do as Americans to protect the few remaining checks and balances (which have been severely eroded through gerrymandering, Citizens United and other horrific partisan Supreme Court decisions) which are in place to protect this experiment in democracy. It hasn't been going very well of late. This would make it worse.
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    This administration is seeking to build a Cabinet of advisors who range from wholly unqualified to this type of nominee who requires exemption to serve.. This position should remain under civilian control, period. Not a single one of these nominees has been properly vetted.
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    Having a civilian with zero military experience lead the military is probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
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    I'm conflicted, as I agree with the principle of civilian controlled military that Senator Gillibrande(spelling?) is fighting for. It's been shown in governments around the world that consolidation of power with government and military leads to limited democracies. However, in our current climate and with the current candidate, fmr. Gen. Mattis, we are placed with a candidate who can provide a strong and confident voice of reason and respect our democracy, from what most of us have been able to ascertain. Because of this man's apparent strength and integrity, I feel the principle of non consolidated power will be respected. Mad Dog is a man I can get behind.
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    There's a reason this is already prohibited. Would you let a robber House sit? A pedophile babysit? Let's just give the mob rule over police...
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    We shouldn't make an exception for one person. Especially as this pick is by a president elect who a majority feel was illegitimately placed in power. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Also there is evidence that his campaign was actively communicating with the Russian government in the hacking of America. This campaign against both the republican and the Democratic Party yet only the democrat's were leaked by Russia on orders of Putin. No, laws are law for a reason.
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