General Mattis Names Appointees

mattis listens

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has added three new appointees to his team at the Pentagon.

Mattis has appointed Vayl Oxford to Director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; Stephen Kitay to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy; and Sergio de la Peña to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Oxford, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology has five years under his belt as a national security executive policy advisor at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy-managed research laboratory.

Kitay was a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee. A retired Air Force officer, he served as the national security space expert on policies and programs, and the multibillion dollar space budget Kitay was also responsible for guiding the oversight of Department of Defense intelligence programs.

According to the Pentagon, De la Peña has been the CEO of de la Peña Consulting for five years. The retired Army colonel worked to develop business strategies to strengthen relationships between U.S. businesses and Latin American governments. He previously worked with defense contractor L3.

Mattis also filled three Senior Executive Service positions. He named Elbridge Colby to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategy and Force Development. He tapped Pete Giambastiani as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. And Thomas Goffus was named deputy assistant secretary for Europe and NATO.

Colby was a Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a national security think tank.

A Naval Academy alumnus, Giambastiani served as a special assistant to the deputy undersecretary of the Navy and the secretary of the Navy under the George W. Bush administration. Most recently, he worked as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Florida.

Goffus, a retired Air Force colonel, most recently served as a staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Mattis Withdraws Patterson for DoD Undersecretary of Policy


By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has withdrawn retired senior diplomat Anne Patterson as his choice for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy after the White House indicated unwillingness to fight what it said would be a battle for Senate confirmation.

Mattis did so after Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex ) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark), two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed strong opposition to Patterson’s selection.

The senators were strongly opposed to Patterson’s nomination because she served as United States ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported an elected government with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that was ultimately overthrown by the Egyptian military.

“I believe that political appointees in the foreign policy and national security arena need to reflect the president’s priorities, and Obama administration officials who helped implement the Obama willful blindness to radical Islamic terrorism and active appeasement of the Muslim Brotherhood do not reflect those commitments,” said Cruz.

Cruz praised Mattis as “a strong and serious leader with decades of experience defending this country,” and said he was “hopeful that the foreign policy and national security team assembled at the Defense Department and throughout this nation will demonstrate the same clear-eyed realism and seriousness of resolve that is needed to keep this country safe.”

Mattis’s acquiescence to Patterson’s withdrawal came after he fought and won a major battle with the White House to remove Iraq from the list of majority Muslim countries whose citizens are barred from U.S. entry under Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that they haven’t moved forward with these nominees,” McCain said. “You can’t expect [Mattis] to run the entire show.”

Asked to comment on the Patterson news, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) said Cotton and Cruz “can do what they want to do, but a principle that has been followed for five administrations is let the people surround themselves with the people who let them operate most effectively.

“I know Anne Patterson very well, I knew her when she was ambassador to Egypt. I think she is very talented,” McCain said.

As of now, Mattis represents the only Senate confirmed spot at the Pentagon, where over 50 spots remain open.

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Mattis Picks Two Navy Rear Admirals as Top Aides

mattis picks

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.

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