UPDATED 1:09 PM PT — Friday, Dec. 28, 2018
As the search for a new defense secretary continues, many believe the president is in search for someone who is aligned with his beliefs and who has a close relationship with Congress. According to recent reports, two people with both a legislative along with a defense and national security background are at the top of the list.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson are said to be the top contenders to fill the position of outgoing Secretary James Mattis. In his resignation letter in early December, Mattis claimed the president needs someone in the role who aligns with his beliefs on national security issues.
President Trump hinted at his possible departure a few months ago and indicated they may have differing views on key areas.
“It could be that he is…I think he’s sort of a Democrat if you want to know the truth, but General Mattis is a good guy, we get along very well — he may leave, I mean at some point everybody leaves,” stated the president.
However, Coats has an extensive background that could be appealing to President Trump. He is a veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, and served in both chambers of Congress. Coats also was in the Senate Armed Services Committee and a House Intelligence Committee.
Wilson graduated from the Air Force Academy and has served in a number of high profile defense roles under former President George H.W. Bush. She has more than 35-years of experience in leadership and management roles in the military, government, and education. She was also a New Mexico congresswoman for a decade.
Wilson has been an advocate for the president’s proposed Space Force, saying it is about time a president takes on an issue as critical to our nation’s national security.
“Both the chief of staff and I are actually very glad that this is now becoming, people are becoming more aware and having a debate about ‘what do we do about this as a nation,’ and that just wasn’t really there before, and I think it’s tremendously helpful as we advance what we’re trying to do to defend our assets on orbit,” she stated.
Wilson would also be the first woman to ever be the secretary of defense.
Mattis is set to leave his post at the end of the year, with Patrick Shanahan taking over in the acting role until a permanent nominee is confirmed.