President-elect Trump’s Cabinet: Secretary of Defense


On Thursday, November 10, we published a preliminary list (leaked and unofficial) of the President-elect Trump’s cabinet choices. The source said that it wasn’t final and there could still be additions and deletions, so we must consider the list on that basis. Since some of the names on that list aren’t “household” names, it seems that it’s a worthwhile endeavor to flesh out the qualifications of those who’ve been mentioned for the various cabinet positions. And that’s the purpose of this post.

Next up is Secretary of Defense. The listed candidates are Former Gen. Mike Flynn, Stephen Hadley, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., JSen. eff Sessions, and former Sen. Jim Talent. Some of the names are familiar, some are not, but just how much do we know about their qualifications to be the top dog responsible for the country’s defense – an extremely important position. Read on and make your decision – and later compare it with President-elect Trumps. Here they are:

Former Lt. General Mike Flynn

Gen. Flynn is apparently no longer under consideration for the position. Flynn is not actually eligible to accept the post, as federal law mandates a seven-year gap between active-duty and taking on the position of secretary of defense. The reason for the gap is because the appointment head of the Department of Defense is supposed to be a civilian position.  He retired as of August 7, 2014.

Granted, it’s still possible for Flynn to serve if Congress grants a waiver. The last time Congress granted a waiver was in 1950 for George Marshall. So, Trump could seek that waiver, but transition sources did not give off the impression he intends to do so.

Stephen Hadley (69)

He served most recently as the National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009. His education includes a B.A. degree in government from Cornell University in 1969. He later received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale Law School and served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1972 to 1975. Hadley has served in a variety of capacities in the defense and national security field, including as an analyst for the Comptroller of the Department of Defense from 1972 to 1974, and a member of the National Security Council staff under President Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977; from 1986 to 1987 he served as Counsel to the Special Review Board established by President Ronald Reagan to inquire into U.S. arms sales to Iran. Hadley served as a senior foreign and defense policy adviser to then-Governor Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign and worked in the Bush-Cheney Transition on the National Security Council. Previous to this position, he was a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Shea & Gardner and a principal in The Scowcroft Group, Inc., an international consulting firm.

Under President George Bush, he was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor from January 22, 2001. On January 26, 2005, he replaced Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor, upon Rice’s confirmation as Secretary of State and held that position until January 2009. Beginning in 2009, he served as senior adviser for international affairs at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. On January 24, 2014, he was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace. I could find no listing for Stephen Hadley on either On the Issues or Project Vote Smart.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (39)

Hunter is the incumbent as the Representative for California’s 50th congressional district. He succeeded his father, Duncan L. Hunter. He attended San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. Hunter started a web design company in college to help pay for tuition. Upon graduation from San Diego State, he worked full-time in San Diego as an information technology business analyst. 

The day after the September 11 attacks, Hunter quit his job and joined the United States Marine Corps. He attended Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Upon graduation in March 2002, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In September 2005, Hunter was honorably discharged from active duty but remained in the Marine Corps Reserve. He then started a residential development company. In 2007, he was recalled to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan in support of the War in Afghanistan; this was his third tour of duty during the War on Terrorism. Hunter was honorably discharged from active duty in December 2007 but continues to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve. Hunter was promoted to major in 2012.

Hunter won election to the U.S. House in 2008 and thus replaced his father, Congressman Duncan L. Hunter (R-Calif.), who retired from Congress after fourteen terms, having represented California’s 52nd congressional district. He was the first combat veteran of either Iraq or Afghanistan to serve in the U.S. Congress. After redistricting, Hunter decided to run in the newly redrawn California’s 50th congressional district and won. See more about his positions on various issues at On the Issues and on Project Vote Smart.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (69)

Senator Sessions is currently a U.S. Senator from the State of Alabama. Sessions studied at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969. Sessions attended the University of Alabama School of Law and graduated with his J.D. in 1973.  He also served in the Army Reserve from 1973 to 1986, achieving the rank of captain. Sessions was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama beginning in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan nominated Sessions to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Senate confirmed him and he held that position for 12 years. He was elected to be Attorney General of Alabama in 1994. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and is the incumbent today, having served 20 years as Senator. See more about his positions on various issues at On the Issues and on Project Vote Smart.

Former Sen. Jim Talent (60 )

Talent is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He is also a co-chairman at Mercury, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm. He earned his B.A. in political science from Washington University in St. Louis. He then attended the University of Chicago Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1981. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Before winning political office, Talent served as an adjunct professor at the Washington University Law school.

Talent served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 1985-1993 and served eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2001) before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002. He served until January 2007. See more about his positions on various issues at On the Issues. Project Vote Smart didn’t have a listing.


Categories: Political


10 replies

  1. None of these people excite me for Secretary of Defense. Hopefully Trump will look beyond the usual options and find someone with the best combination of military experience, strategic intelligence and wisdom, but I doubt it.


    • Flynn is the only one that excites me, CW. I just believe that the Sec-Def position ought to be a military man/woman. I didn’t flesh out Flynn’s qualifications because unless Trump gets a waiver from Congress, he can’t be Sec-Def, but if you look at his qualifications, he stands out far above the others.


      • I agree that it should be a military person, Garnet. What I don’t like about Flynn is that he was a Trump guy. Makes me wonder about his judgment. 🙂


      • Sessions is a military guy, having been an Army Reserve officer. He also knows how to work the House and Senate Armed Forces Committees.

        Flynn’s expertise is intelligence, which is why I put him as DNI.


  2. I ditto your comments and selection of Flynn – we need the military experience in this position. Sessions would be better in some other position, maybe AG or somewhere in the legal field.

    I just read that Trump picked Priebus for his Chief of Staff and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor, so I’m already having doubts about his judgment in making calls for other positions. I wouldn’t put Priebus in any position, but apparently he switched from a Jebbie fan to a Trump fan just in time.

    Bannon, a former Breitbart CEO, has been described as ‘a firebrand of the far right, whose website has in the past targeted many GOP leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan, deriding them as “establishment” figures.’

    Trump is sending mixed messages when he hires Priebus, a fan of establishment politicians, and Bannon, who calls them out. We know Trump isn’t a true conservative, but he’s not even in office yet, and I’m already nervous.


    • I guess I’ll give Trump some leeway to pick his own advisers, but I don’t feel the love for Priebus, as you say, he’s been in bed with the RINOs too long. I don’t have any feelings about Bannon, one way or the other.


  3. I screwed up when I didn’t include Gen. Flynn’s qualifications. He would be my pick. I believe that the Sec. Def. should have military experience since that position is intimately involved with our military forces and not just intelligence. I would prefer a guy with Flynn’s background to deal with military defense matters and not leave it to someone with only a spook’s experience. Yes, it would take a waiver from Congress, but would that be such a big deal? When I read back over Flynn’s record, he seems ideal for the job. No one else mentioned brings so much to the table. What qualifications do the others have? Sen. Sessions may be a great guy in a lot of ways, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Flynn. I hope that Trump and his advisers think twice about this extremely important position and offer it (along with a waiver) to Flynn.

    I just read an article that mentioned Kelly Ayotte as a possible defense secretary – are you kidding me? I sincerely hope that Trump considers more than just support and loyalty when naming people to these important positions. Some of the names being floated around look like nothing more than political patronage with little regard to a person’s previous history and qualifications.


  4. Sessions probably has his pick of SoD or AG.

    I see Flynn as being at CIA ot DNI, again probably his pick.


  5. Sessions is probably the pick.

    Hunter Jr. needs more seasoning, but I do have his father as National Security Advisor.

    Flynn, having recently been head of the Defense Intelligence Agency could be the pick as Director of National Intelligence.


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