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Military past helps qualify defense chief

Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of defense, James

Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of defense, James Mattis, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

It’s surprising and disappointing that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand opposed the granting of a civilian waiver to retired Gen. James Mattis, who needed the exception because he didn’t have the required seven years in civilian life to be considered as secretary of defense [“Gillibrand opposes waiver for Mattis,” News, Jan. 5]. Gillibrand said that civilian control of our military is fundamental to our democracy.

With that logic, the secretary of agriculture could not have been a farmer for seven years before being named to the post. Nor could the secretary of homeland security have worked in the security industry for seven years before being appointed.

How well did some of our previous civilian secretaries of defense — for example, Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld — do? In my opinion, not too well.

I served 28 years in the military and am now a civilian. You never forget your military experience, even seven years after discharge. Military service would be helpful to more elected and appointed public officials, so they could better understand American life and government responsibilities.

Rick Outcault Sr., Northport