January 12, 2017

Senator Warren's Statement on Armed Services Committee Vote on Waiver for General James Mattis

WASHINGTON, DC — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren released the following statement today regarding the Senate Armed Services Committee's vote to waive the requirement that an individual be retired from active duty military service for seven years to be eligible for appointment as the Secretary of Defense, so that the Senate can subsequently consider President-Elect Trump's nomination of retired General James Mattis:

"Americans have always been skeptical of concentrated government power, and concentrated military power is at the top of the list. Civilian control of the military is so essential to the effective functioning of any democracy that we often take it for granted-but we shouldn't. As elected civilian leaders, we have a responsibility not to chip away at this principle without a very compelling reason.

"Since 1947, we have required a minimum number of years of separation from the military before a retired service-member can be eligible to become the Secretary of Defense. The Congress that set this rule had just lived through World War II. They knew they were excluding many qualified officers. But they did it anyway - to ensure that such leaders would have time to transition from the perspective of a soldier to the perspective of a civilian, to reduce their attachment to one particular service branch, and to make clear that the military itself comes second to its civilian leaders.

"In 66 years, we have made only one exception. I do not believe we should do so today. As I have told General Mattis personally, my vote today has nothing to do with him as an individual. While General Mattis and I clearly disagree on some issues, it is obvious from his thoughtful testimony today and from our private meeting that he is highly qualified, has a distinguished record of service, and respects the importance of civilian control - he's literally edited a book on it. And if this waiver is approved, I will consider his nomination on its merits. "

There were lots of impressive, highly qualified World War II veterans in 1947 who were barred from serving as Secretary of Defense. We established this rule because the principle of civilian control protects our democracy, and our democracy is more important than any one individual."