President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly going to nominate retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as his secretary of Homeland Security, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
Kelly spent more than 40 years in the military in the U.S. military. He led the U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for military operations in Central and South America. Kelly, who lost a son in Afghanistan, retired in 2016, Politico reported.
Kelly’s command included counter-narcotics operations as well as oversight of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Kelly met with Trump, along with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, late last month at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump’s transition team reported that they had “a frank discussion” about the world security situation and conflicts in the Middle East. Their discussions also included Kelly’s “diplomatic experience during his time as the commander of United States Southern Command in Latin America.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which was created after 9/11 attacks to fight terrorism, would be key to Trump’s pledges to secure the border and control illegal immigration.
During his campaign, Trump promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2015, Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee that human smuggling routes “are a potential vulnerability to our homeland.” He also told Defense One in 2014 that a lack of military engagement in Central America had created a vacuum that benefited criminal networks.
Kelly has no direct experience with many of the disparate agencies that make up the Department of Homeland Security. The department is responsible for cybersecurity, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol and the Secret Service, as well as administrates animal disease research, disaster relief and immigration services.
If selected, Kelly will be third general joining Trump’s cabinet. The president-elect already nominated retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.
Kelly had said that he would be willing to serve under either Trump or Hillary Clinton. The retired four-star general, who never endorsed a candidate, said that the new president will get “the absolute best military advice, completely devoid of politics,” from him.
In 2010, Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by a bomb blast in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.