Sure, this question might seem counter-intuitive, since Donald Trump has three generals (two retired and one active) in his Cabinet! In fact, that might be a major cause of the problem! But, let me take you through my scenario.
Donald relies on a very small group of trusted loyalists, basically his children, and his son-in-law. Others seem to move into his orbit—like Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, KellyAnne Conway, Jeff Sessions, etc.,—and then, just as quickly, they’re gone!
There are few Cabinet Officers who have any key staffers—Presidential Appointees—since only a few Deputy and Assistant Secretaries, throughout the entire Regime, have been Confirmed by the Senate. Is there a hearing backlog or, perhaps, qualified people just don’t wish to Pledge their Loyalty to Trump? Isn’t Country and the Constitution sufficient? So, who can the Secretaries delegate responsibility to, or leave in charge when they’re away?
When President John F. Kennedy took the Presidential Oath of Office, in January of 1961, he brought-in a younger, highly educated group of key advisors—which he deemed the New Frontier—perhaps as compared to President Eisenhower’s Old Guard. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, working with the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and bogged-down in their intra-service rivalries, could not respond to Kennedy’s requests for ideas and plans as quickly as his analytically minded Cabinet cronies could!
In time, President Kennedy replaced the Old Guard at the JCS; however, the new, younger group of Chiefs had the same problems in providing the advice and planning, which the President had wanted. Kennedy pal, Secretary of Defense, Robert S, McNamara became the intermediary, between the President and the Chiefs. Eventually, however, McNamara pushed the Chiefs off into irrelevance. Then, when JFK re-activated retired general Maxwell Taylor, to be his Special Military Advisor, the Joint Chiefs were truly no longer even a consideration, other than for occasional public display.
After President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, in-coming President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was kept mostly in the dark on most policy issues as Vice President, maintained JFK’s Cabinet, and his small advisory braintrust. The Joint Chiefs were again primarily just asked to identify potential targets in Vietnam, rather than to participate in any military planning. In fact, President Johnson was so involved with the 1964 Election, and his signature Great Society Legislation, that he appeared to wish that Vietnam would just go away.
The small group, who advised both Presidents JFK and LBJ were mostly academics and intellectuals. They could grasp comprehensive problems, and possessed all of the necessary tools to arrive at viable solutions. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has seemed to prefer loyalty, rather than competence and, unfortunately, they seem to have lacked the critical thinking, and analytical skills for their jobs.
Additionally, Donald Trump lacks the necessary management skills required to make timely, and relevant executive decisions. Just leaving the general administration to the apparatchiks, has merely led to disruption, and mixed communications. Confusion has been evident, in regard to both domestic and foreign policy!
Why did he tap Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to threaten North Korea with a pre-emptive attack, rather than National Security Advisor (and active General) H. R. McMaster or Secretary of Defense James Mattis? Similarly, why were neither of them present when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, last week at the G-20 Summit?
Since Donald Trump seems to prefer his loyal group of trusted advisors, and appears to lacks any management skills in assigning tasks among his Cabinet Advisors, I doubt that the Joint Chiefs of Staff will ever have much, if any, input into his Military Agenda. By having generals in his Cabinet, that gives the appearance of JCS involvement; but, that might be an incorrect assumption! In fact, does Donald Trump even have a realistic Plan for any of the four wars currently going on in the Middle East?
Once Mattis and McMaster took the positions of Secretary and Advisor, respectively, in the Trump Cabinet, they began working at the pleasure of the President. The soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen are no longer their constituency—but, that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But, shouldn’t they still be represented too?
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