WASHINGTON (CN) – President-elect Donald Trump has selected retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, as the next secretary of homeland security.
Trump’s selection of Kelly came on a day of significant appointments for the president-elect and his transition team. Also announced Wednesday was his choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, spent 40 years in the service, once serving as head of the United States Southern Command, which oversees operations in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America. Kelly’s son, Lt. Robert Kelly, died while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
The New York Times reported Kelly’s experience of losing a family member in battle was key to Trump’s decision to appoint him because the future president wants the people helping to make national security decisions to understand the consequences of putting Americans in harm’s way.
As the head of the U.S. Southern Command, Kelly oversaw the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has defended the military prison there that still holds dozens of alleged terrorists despite the Obama administration’s stated desire to close it.
“Every one, has real, no-kidding intelligence on them that brought them there,” Kelly told Military Times in January of the detainees. ” They were doing something negative, something bad, something violent and they were taken from the battlefield. There are a lot of people that will dispute that, but I have dossiers on all of them, built and maintained by the intelligence community, both military and civilian. There are no innocent men down there.”
If Kelly is in fact Trump’s choice, he will become the third former military officer to be appointed to the fledgling cabinet. James Mattis, Trump’s choice for secretary of defense, is a retired Marine Corps general, while Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, is a former Army lieutenant general.
Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment on the reported appointment. The Times reported the announcement will become official next week and that Trump has not yet formally offered the job to Kelly, who is out of the country.