By Ken Bredemeier February 20, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump named a new national security adviser Monday, picking Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, a military strategist who has spent his entire career in the U.S. armed forces.
Trump called the 54-year-old McMaster “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”
The president, making the announcement from his Florida retreat Mar-a-Lago along the Atlantic Ocean, said that retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who had been his acting adviser, will now serve as chief of staff of the National Security Council.
McMaster is currently director of the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center, an Army agency tasked with integrating “war-fighting capabilities into the force” and with other government agencies. Trump selected him over at least three other contenders, including Kellogg.
A much-decorated soldier
McMaster will replace Michael Flynn, the retired Army general Trump fired a week ago after just 24 days on the job at the start of Trump’s assumption of power in Washington. The new president said last week it was unacceptable to him that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump was inaugurated a month ago.
McMaster is a much-decorated soldier, winning a Silver Star early in his Army career leading U.S. troops in their destruction of 80 Iraqi Republican Guard tanks without U.S. losses in a battle against Saddam Hussein’s forces during their 1991 invasion of Kuwait. McMaster has held numerous key Army postings over the last 25 years.
Three years ago, Time magazine put him on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, calling him “the architect of the future U.S. Army.”
The immediate reaction from members of Congress was positive.
Sen. John McCain, who has occasionally voiced concerns about Trump’s administration, especially over foreign policy and security issues, said McMaster is “an outstanding choice for national security adviser,” and called him “a man of genuine intellect, character and ability.”
Fellow Republicans Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Adam Kinzinger also heaped praise on McMaster, with Cotton tweeting the general is “one of the finest combat leaders of our generation.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted that McMaster is a “solid choice, bright & strategic. Wrote the book on importance of standing up to POTUS [president of the U.S.]. May need to show same independence here.”
Pence ‘disappointed’ by Flynn
Pence said Monday he was “disappointed” to learn that Flynn had misled him about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, stressing that he supported Trump’s decision to fire him.
Pence, during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said, “It was the proper decision, it was handled properly and in a timely way.”
Trump’s chief of staff said Sunday that the person selected to be the next national security adviser — McMaster, as it turns out — will have full authority over staffing decisions for the National Security Council.
That issue over control was reportedly one reason former Navy admiral Robert Harward turned down the job last week.
“The president has said very clearly that the new director will have total and complete say over the makeup of the NSC and all of the components of the NSC,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on Fox News Sunday. Harward was Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn.
Panetta voices his concerns
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday the turmoil surrounding the key position has made U.S. national security operations “dysfunctional.”
“What happens if there’s a major crisis that faces this country?” Panetta said. “If Russia engages in a provocation, if Iran does something stupid, if North Korea does something stupid and we have to respond, where is the structure to be able to evaluate that threat, consider it, and provide options to the president?
“Right now, that’s dysfunctional, and that’s what worries me a great deal,” said Panetta, who also once served as director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.