The Trump Transition Team announced today that Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Corps four-star general John Kelly as the nominee for the secretary of Homeland Security job, making him the third general officer pick in the president-elect’s cabinet.
Kelly served in the Marine Corps for over 40 years and finished active duty as the head of Southern Command. He was promoted to brigadier general in 2003 while leading troops involved in intense combat at the outset of the war in Iraq.
In 2010, Kelly earned the dubious distinction of being the senior-most military officer to lose a child in the post-9/11 wars when his son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, lost his life after stepping on a mine in Afghanistan.
General Kelly doesn’t talk about the loss of his son, but it played a role in his selection by Mr. Trump, according to people close to the Trump transition, the New York Times reports. Mr. Trump, his aides said, wanted people on his national security team who understood personally the hazards of sending Americans into combat.
Kelly has been an outspoken critic of some of Obama administration’s policies, including the effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and open all combat jobs to women, saying the military would have to lower its physical standards to bring women into some roles.
“There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?” he said to reporters in January, shortly before his retirement, the New York Times reports.
“If we don’t change standards,” General Kelly added, “it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers — any real numbers — come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the SEALs, but that’s their business.”
General Kelly served as senior military assistant to Leon E. Panetta when he was secretary of defense, and on Wednesday, Mr. Panetta offered a wholehearted endorsement, according to a New York Times report, calling him an “excellent choice.”