Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, former commander of the U.S. Central Command and a Marine Corps legend, is expected to meet with President-elect Donald Trump amid speculation that he's on a shortlist to become the next defense secretary.
Trump's office on Friday announced the private meeting set to take place on Saturday in New York with the 66-year-old Mattis, known to some of his troops as "Mad Dog," as the transition team moved into high gear under the direction of the new transition chairman, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who replaced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The president-elect announced that he would be nominating Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and an early supporter, as attorney general, and Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican and West Point graduate, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Trump also announced he would be appointing retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, the former Defense Intelligence Agency director, as White House national security advisor, which does not require Senate confirmation.
The Trump team also made contacts with the Defense and State Departments for the first time and sent representatives to the Pentagon and to State to occupy offices set up for them and begin meetings with staff.
Trump has pledged a fast and orderly transition, and President Barack Obama has promised cooperation to speed the process, to allow Trump to "hit the ground running" upon his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Trump has been relying upon Flynn and a stable of retired officers, including retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, for policy guidance and advice on Cabinet positions. Kellogg, an 82nd Airborne Division soldier and Vietnam veteran, served in the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq after the invasion and has worked for several defense and homeland security contractors.
Kellogg has been a fixture at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Trump will meet Saturday with Mattis and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who vehemently opposed Trump's candidacy but now is considered a possible nominee for Secretary of State.
Trump was also said to be considering retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA Director, as a potential choice for secretary of state. Petraeus resigned from the CIA in disgrace in 2012 over an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The FBI later found that Petraeus had shared classified information with Broadwell and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Petraeus recently told the German news outlet Deutsche Welle that Trump was "right to criticize Washington over its partisanship and its inability to forge compromises. "He's a dealmaker," Petraeus said of Trump. "Let's see if he can make some deals in Washington."
Mattis already has numerous admirers at the Pentagon. As 1st Marine Division commander in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mattis commanded then-Col. Joseph Dunford, now the Joint Chiefs Chairman. His leadership style has been described as demanding, yet he was also known for giving subordinates wide leeway to show initiative.
Mattis himself has said that his style was to give a regimental commander an "avenue of approach" to an objective and then let that commander decide how best to accomplish the mission. However, Mattis is also known for expecting quick results. In the 2003 invasion, Mattis raised concerns with superiors when he relieved a regimental commander he felt was bogging down the offensive.
Mattis was also known as an intellectual among generals, carrying a copy of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius with him wherever he deployed. He is said to have a personal library of more than 1,000 books.
In his 44 years of service, Mattis left behind a number of sayings that have become gospel to Marines. His motto for the 1st Marine Division in Iraq was also intended to send a message to the Iraqi people about his Marines: "No better friend, no worse enemy." Another saying attributed to Mattis was: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."
Mattis, of Pullman, Washington, was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers Training Corps in January 1972. As a lieutenant colonel, Mattis commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, which was part of the Task Force Ripper assault fore in the Persian Gulf War.
As a brigadier general in 2001, Mattis led the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Afghanistan and in 2003 as a major general led the Ist Marine Division in the march from Kuwait to Baghdad.
Others under consideration for the top post at the Pentagon reportedly include retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, a persistent critic of the Obama administration who met with Trump Thursday; Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who met with Trump twice this week; Jim Talent, a retired Republican senator from Missouri; and Stephen Hadley, former national-security adviser under President George W. Bush.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.