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James N. Mattis

Donald Trump Administration

20 January 2017-31 December 2018


Born in Pullman, Washington, on September 8, 1950, James Mattis earned a B.A. from Central Washington University in 1971. He joined the Marine Corps and obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1972. Mattis graduated from the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School and the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. He also earned an M.A. in international security affairs from the National War College in 1994. 

Over the course of his 43-year military career, Mattis served in numerous command positions. From 2002 to 2004, as a Major General, he commanded the 1st Marine Division, leading forces in Iraq. From 2005 to 2006, while a Lieutenant General, Mattis was Commander of Marine Corps Combat Development at Quantico. He served as the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force and as the Commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command in the Middle East from 2006 to 2007. From 2007 to 2010, as a General, he concurrently served as the Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. From 2010 to 2013, Mattis was the Commander at U.S. Central Command. He retired as a Marine Corps General in 2013.

Following his military service, Mattis served on the advisory board of the nonprofit, Spirit of America, and wrote a book on civil-military relations. He was a Hoover Institution distinguished visiting fellow when President Donald J. Trump selected him for Secretary of Defense.  

In order for the recently retired Marine General to serve as Secretary of Defense, Congress passed legislation providing an exception to the National Security Act’s provision prohibiting the appointment of an individual to serve as Secretary within 7 years of retirement as a commissioned military officer. President Trump signed the bill as Public Law 115-2 on 20 January 2017. George Marshall was the only other Secretary of Defense to have received such a waiver.