The next secretary of defense is almost sure to have a strong relationship with Congress and very likely will be a former Member of Congress, Newsmax learned Thursday night.
Sources on Capitol Hill who requested anonymity told Newsmax the leading contenders are two former lawmakers with impressive credentials in defense and national security: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Indiana Republican senator, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, a former U.S. Representative from New Mexico.
The same sources said the president places considerable weight on the opinion of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., on who Trump will nominate to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
At 75, Coats would be the oldest civilian head of the Armed Forces since Henry Stimson became Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of war at age 73 in 1940. A veteran of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who served in both the House and Senate, Coats served on both the Senate Armed Services Committee and House Select Committee on Intelligence.
In 2000, the Hoosier conservative was considered a cinch to be President-elect George W. Bush's defense secretary. But according to Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial," "Coats had not been impressive in his interview with Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who was heading the transition team for the new government."
Donald Rumsfeld won the coveted Pentagon slot and Coats was instead tapped to be ambassador to Germany.
If selected, Secretary Wilson, 58, would be the first woman to be secretary of defense. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Rhodes Scholar, she served as director of European Defense Policy and Arms Control at the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush.
Secretary Wilson also served as U.S. Representative from New Mexico 1998-2008.
Already several prominent Republican women have begun calling for Trump to appoint Wilson Secretary of Defense, notably Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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