Here's who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon's nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

Now that Donald Trump is set to become the 45th President of the United States, everyone is wondering what his potential cabinet will look like.

Perhaps most consequential is who he picks for Secretary of Defense — a civilian leadership position at the Pentagon in charge of roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Also read: 6 weapons systems that are likely to gain from a Donald Trump win

Here’s who it could be, according to reporting from Politico and The Hill:

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn (Ret.)

1200px-Defense.gov_photo_essay_120724-D-BW835-236-Michael-Flynn-DIA

Lt Gen. Michael Flynn addresses an audience during a change of directorship ceremony at the Defense Intelligence Agency. | US Department of Defense photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

A reliable Trump surrogate on the campaign trail, Flynn is seen as a likely choice for the top spot at the Pentagon. He previously served as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency,retiring in 2014 after 33 years in uniform. Flynn was a career military intelligence officer who served during the Cold War, Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom, and others.

“He’s about leading from the front. He’s about taking the hard jobs. He’s about driving change,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said of him in 2014. “He’s always about the men and women around him.”

There’s just one problem for Flynn, however. Since he’s only been out of uniform for two years, he’d require a waiver from Congress to serve as Defense Secretary, since the law requires a seven year gap for military officers who want to serve as the Pentagon’s civilian leader. He could still serve in some other spot, such as national security advisor.

Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell is not a fan, however. In leaked personal emails reported by BuzzFeed News, Powell described Flynn as “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy” and called him “right-wing nutty.”

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions tours a sensor station inside of a P-3C Orion aircraft. | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions tours a sensor station inside of a P-3C Orion aircraft. | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver

Another name being floated is Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator who has been in office since 1996. He supported the 2003 Iraq War and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles, foreshadowing major policy reversals he could potentially implement as Defense Secretary.

Sessions has personal military experience, having served as a Captain in the US Army Reserve for 13 years. He currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been advising Trump on national security since March. “He would obviously be a very strong fit” for Defense Secretary, said Joe Kasper, the chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).

Stephen Hadley

Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley chats with Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and CENTCOM Commander Army General Lloyd Austin in January, 2015 | State Department photo

Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley chats with Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and CENTCOM Commander Army General Lloyd Austin in January, 2015 | State Department photo

President George W. Bush’s former national security advisor may reprise that role in a Trump administration, or be tapped to lead the Pentagon as Defense Secretary.

Right now he chairs the United States Institute of Peace, a federally-funded think tank that promotes conflict resolution around the world. He’s also a principal of RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm he founded with former national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Anja Manuel, a former State Department official.

Hadley is a controversial figure. The false allegation that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger prior to the invasion made its way into President Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2003, which Hadley later apologized for.

He also sits on the board of defense contractor Raytheon, a potential conflict-of-interest he’d have to remedy should he be tapped by Trump.

He’s been hawkish on Iraq and Iran. He’s also been skeptical of Russian military moves and was critical of the Obama administration’s “Russian reset.” He has also acknowledged the national security implications of climate change.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)

Senator Jim Talent (center) of Missouri with the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea-power in 2003. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Bivera

Senator Jim Talent (center) of Missouri with the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea-power in 2003. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera

Last but not least is former Sen. Jim Talent. Talent served in the Senate for much of the Bush administration, finally losing to Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2006. He currently serves on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress that examines the US-China relationship and prepares an annual report on its national security implications.

Like Hadley, Talent is also an Iraq War hawk. Though he wasn’t in Congress for the 2002 vote to go to war, he said in 2006 that he still would have invaded Iraq even with the knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction.

He wants to enlarge the size of the Army, and opposes the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been critical of Trump’s approach to NATO — setting conditions to automatic defense of NATO countries — writing that such a move could isolate America from its allies.

What they face

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Codey Underwood

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Codey Underwood

Whoever gets picked, the next Defense Secretary will face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

A number of defense secretaries who served under Obama have criticized him for “micromanagement.” Trump, it appears, seems to be more of a delegator who will let the Pentagon chief take the reins of the military.

“He will empower his SecDef to lead the way,” Kasper said.

The next Defense Secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test the limits of the next President in eastern Europe. He or she also needs to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

Trump will also make appointments for many other positions in the Pentagon and the military services, such as service secretaries, policy undersecretaries, and advisors. Those spots may be filled from his list of retired military officers or outsiders. The current leadership at the Pentagon is already preparing for that transition.

TOP ARTICLES
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.

A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day

This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.

Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'

The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.

That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat

In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.

5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky

When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'

"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Advertising can really impact recruitment for the military. For better or for worse, here are some of the Army's most memorable slogans...