WASHINGTON Jan 12 President-elect Donald
Trump's pick to lead the Pentagon is expected to field tough
questions about civilian control of the military as well as
future U.S. policy toward Russia and Iran during his Senate
confirmation hearing on Thursday.
James Mattis, who retired as a four-star Marine general in
2013, is technically ineligible for the job since he has not
been a civilian for at least seven years.
That means Congress would need to grant him a waiver,
something it has not done since 1950, but appears inclined to do
In his opening statement, Mattis will make the case that he
can lead the military as a civilian, even after a 44-year
"I recognize my potential civilian role differs in essence
and in substance from my former role in uniform," Mattis will
testify, according to prepared remarks.
Mattis, 66, is believed to advocate a stronger line against
Moscow than the one Trump outlined during his election campaign
and has argued persuasively in private talks with Trump against
the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, as an
Those attributes, as well as his past remarks extolling the
NATO alliance, which Trump also criticized in the campaign, are
expected to help sway many Democrats and Republicans skeptical
of some of Trump's campaign positions.
Mattis made clear his support for strong international
alliances in remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"History is clear: nations with strong allies thrive and
those without them wither," Mattis will testify at the hearing,
due to begin at 9:30 a.m. (1430 GMT).
Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, said he expected Mattis would not
have a difficult time securing the nomination, partly because he
enjoys bipartisan support.
"The other thing he has going for him is that he may be a
restraint on some of Trump's more extreme impulses," Cancian
said. "The concern that people would have is OK, you vote down
Mattis, who do you get?"
Senators are expected to ask Mattis how he would grapple
with Iran's influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond.
Officials who knew him before he retired in 2013 said Mattis
clashed with top Obama administration officials when he headed
Central Command over his desire to better prepare for potential
threats from Tehran.
His support for stiffer responses to Russia could endear him
to Republicans. Senior Republicans on the committee are pushing
for a harsher response to what U.S. spy agencies say was the
Kremlin's meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has expressed a desire
to improve ties with Moscow.
Mattis' confirmation hearing comes the same day that U.S.
Representative Mike Pompeo, Trump's choice to be the next CIA
director, goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Lawmakers are expected to ask about his support for the U.S.
government's now-defunct sweeping collection of Americans'
communications data and for the CIA's use of harsh interrogation
techniques on detainees in secret overseas prisons during the
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in January 2016,
the conservative lawmaker from Kansas called for a resumption by
the National Security Agency of the bulk collection of domestic
telephone metadata, which comprises numbers called, the times of
calls and the locations from where and to where they are made,
but not the actual conversations.
Pompeo has argued that the CIA's program of so-called
Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, which included waterboarding,
produced useful intelligence. A 2014 Senate Intelligence
Committee report concluded that the techniques, decried as
torture by many lawmakers and human rights experts, produced no
In excerpts of his opening statement released in advance,
Pompeo pledged to shed the political role he had played as a
three-term member of the House of Representatives and "stay
clearly on the side of collecting intelligence and providing
objective analysis to policymakers."
"This is the most complicated threat environment the United
States has faced in recent history," said Pompeo, who served as
an Army officer in Europe during the Cold War.
He pledged that under his leadership, the CIA would
"aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts
have the time, political space, and resources to make objective
and sound judgments."
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Peter