By Debbie Gregory.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has named retired Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, who served with him previously at U.S. Central Command, to be his chief of staff.
Two-star Navy Rear Adm. Craig Faller, currently the service’s chief of legislative affairs, was chosen to serve as Mattis’ senior military assistant.
Mattis has known Faller and Sweeney for several years. Each worked for the retired Marine Corps general during his tenure at Central Command.
Sweeney, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1982, commanded Carrier Strike Group Ten. In 2001, he took command of the USS Cole, helping restore the ship after a devastating militant attack off the coast of Yemen. Since leaving the Navy, he has been active in business development in Virginia.
Faller has served in the Navy for nearly 34 years, most recently as chief of legislative affairs. In that role he represented the service and its senior leaders on Capitol Hill. His familiarity with Congress likely signals that Mattis is intending to make a major push to grow the Defense Department’s budget, which has been severely constricted by federal spending caps enacted five years ago.
In their new roles, both men will have considerable influence during internal policy discussions. Defense secretaries look to their advisers to provide candid, constructive advice on all manner of military operations and initiatives — and to speak up if they believe specific efforts are ill conceived.
Mattis received a waiver from Congress that permitted him to succeed Ashton Carter as defense secretary, bypassing a law that mandates a seven-year “cooling off” period between military service and assuming the top civilian defense job. Mattis, 66, retired in 2013 after a 44-year military.