John Kelly is Donald Trump’s choice to be the new secretary of Homeland Security.
The retired four-star general has had an extensive career in the military. He served over 40 years in the Marine Corps before retiring this year. Kelly, 66, is the third retired general nominated to a top post in the Trump administration.
And Homeland Security — as the department overseeing border security, immigration, and antiterrorism efforts, which was founded after the September 11 attacks — will play a pivotal role in fulfilling many of Trump's campaign promises, including tougher immigration policies and the construction of a wall on the Mexican border.
Kelly’s former leadership posts include congressional liaison for the Marines, senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and head of the United States Southern Command.
Earlier this year, Kelly questioned the Obama administration’s plan to open all combat positions to women, a policy that began in 2016. He feared doing so would “lower standards” for the military’s physical requirements for battle.
“There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?” Kelly said at a Pentagon press conference in January.
“If we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers — any real numbers — come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the SEALs, but that’s their business,” he added.
Kelly also differs with President Obama’s stance that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay should be shuttered. He sees those held in the facility as detainees, rather than prisoners who deserve the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Kelly has also defended the force-feedings of those who hunger-strike there as humane.
Kelly is a Gold Star parent. His son died in combat in Afghanistan in 2010 after stepping on a land mine.
Unlike most of the president-elect's other appointees, Kelly did not endorse Trump prior to his presidential win. In face, Kelly was openly critical of the U.S. election, calling it a “cesspool of domestic politics” in a July interview with Foreign Policy. At the time, he said the campaigns of both Trump and Hillary Clinton “don’t reflect reality” and failed to adequately address key foreign policy issues.
He said either, as president, “will be in desperate need — and I mean desperate need — of military and foreign policy advice, because the world out there is just getting crazier and crazier.”