Former Secretary of Defense
A dedicated patriot, intellectual, and strategist, former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine General James N. Mattis exemplifies principled leadership in times of turbulence.
One of the preeminent leaders of his generation, Gen James Mattis has spent nearly 50 years in the service of his country. Renowned for his diligent study of war, and his dogged efforts on the battlefield, Gen Mattis is described as a principled commander who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
A rare combination of thinker and doer, and scholar and strategist, Gen Mattis knows the monumental powers and responsibility of our military forces, and the challenges of our dangerous and complex world. His matchless dedication to his job and country earned him universal respect and reverence – from allies and adversaries alike.
Gen Mattis served as the 26th Secretary of Defense of the United States for nearly two years before resigning with distinction. With his reputation as a sharp analyst and venerable wartime leader, Gen Mattis received nearly unanimous, bipartisan support for his nomination. A living Marine Corps legend, he made history by securing special permission from Congress to lead the Pentagon, sooner than he was eligible.
As Secretary of Defense, Mattis preferred not to play politics – a quality that boosted admiration for the retired general. Instead, he focused on making combat readiness one of his main priorities, and served as the primary author of a new American defense strategy whose central goal was to take on “revisionist” powers that “seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.”
Viewed as the steady hand in tumultuous times, he championed building a network of alliances and strategic partnerships around the world.
“Our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” then Secretary Mattis wrote in a letter to President Trump. Without maintaining those alliances, he says, we cannot protect our interests or serve the role of an indispensable nation in the free world.
His resolve to amass and maintain positive relations with key countries served as a premier example of professionalism and stability in a political landscape wrought with unpredictability.
During his 44 years in the Marines, Gen Mattis rose from an 18-year-old reservist to the highest rank of four-star general. He capped off his military career as head of the U.S. Central Command, where he was in charge of all American forces serving in the Middle East and oversaw operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Syria, Iran, and Yemen. He retired from the post in 2013. It would be just four years later, in 2017, that he would answer the call to serve again, as the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet cleared to take office.
A veteran of three wars, Gen Mattis spent much of his career involved in overseas conflict. Described by colleagues and his staff as brave, honest, and humble, Gen Mattis proved to be an exceptional motivator of Marines and developed a leading style that endeared him to his troops.
“Believe so completely in subordinates they have no choice but to believe in themselves; act from integrity and authenticity, let your very goodness put ambition out of context,” he counsels.
As part of his “hearts and minds” approach to counterinsurgency operations, Gen Mattis established the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, which remains active today. The academy for Marine officers and senior enlisted personnel provides cultural awareness and language skills training to ensure units can operate effectively in complex expeditionary environments.
A patriot who always put country above self, Gen Mattis steeped himself in the history and tradition of the military and dedicated himself to the Marine Corps.
Gen Mattis speaks with candor and thoughtful analysis about the threats that face our nation and military. Humorous, compassionate, and strategic, he also offers insightful lessons in leadership, with a deep focus on the art of empowering individuals.
Hear from the NACDS leadership about industry issues and NACDS activities on your behalf. You can also look forward to expert presentations on current business and political issues.