Retired Marine Corps general John F. Kelly testifies Tuesday afternoon before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee as President-elect Trump’s nomination to become the next secretary of Homeland Security. Kelly is widely respected as a nonpartisan candidate, and he previously earned unanimous senate confirmation under President Obama, so no hurdles are expected for Kelly during his hearing.
As DHS Secretary, Kelly will oversee an agency with a $40-plus billion budget and around a quarter-million employees. As the head of the DHS, the primary areas of responsibility include border enforcement and immigration, cybersecurity, natural disaster response, and transportation screening.
Kelly is as qualified as anyone to lead the DHS, and here are four major reasons why.
1. He serves without an agenda
Since enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1970, Gen. Kelly has lived a very apolitical life, dedicating his entire career to the U.S. military. Therefore, it is highly likely that he can serve with loyalty and distinction, without objection, to a commander in chief of either Republican or Democrat persuasion. Kelly has spent the past eight years serving in the Obama administration. Given his track record, President-elect Trump can rely on Kelly to serve loyally.
As the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Kelly became very familiar with the landscape of the Western Hemisphere and what it takes to secure U.S. interests in the region. His experience at SOUTHCOM dealing with areas such as immigration and border security will be beneficial to the president-elect, who ran a campaign shining a light on those two issues. As SOUTHCOM chief, he supervised the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which Trump has promised to restore as a detention center, stating he would “load it up” with enemy combatants.
The retired USMC general has a plethora of wartime experience, as he’s played major roles in both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War (undeniably an important asset for the job).
3. “He’ll speak truth to power”
Given his nonpartisan background, John Kelly can see through the political clutter better than most and offer objective analysis about the most important issues.
“He’s a Marine; he tells it like it is,” former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of Kelly. “He’ll speak truth to power, no matter who it is.”
The incoming president has plenty of yes-men accompanying him into the Oval Office. Kelly has traveled to dozens of countries and has been outspoken about his views on border security, immigration, and the threats posed by our most fierce adversaries. His analysis, gathered through decades of experience, may not perfectly align with the advisors surrounding President-elect Trump. But that’s a good thing — more voices, not less.
4. He understands the threat environment
John Kelly has a firm grasp on the threats that continue to promulgate from the global jihadist movement. He has witnessed the devastation of the Islamic State and other jihadi groups across the Atlantic. With the tragic loss of his son Robert in Afghanistan, Kelly understands better than most the sacrifices of those in the armed forces. Kelly has not hesitated to call out the “radical Muslim threat” encroaching in the West and has warned that adversaries like Russia and China will continue to fill the vacuum left behind by a shrinking American presence worldwide.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel