Retired general with Tampa ties tapped to lead Defense Department

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis. AP Photo.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – President-Elect Donald Trump made an announcement Thursday night indicating that he plans to pick a man with Tampa ties as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense.

“We are going to appoint [James] ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our Secretary of Defense,” Trump said at a so-called thank you tour in Ohio. “But, we’re not announcing it until Monday so don’t tell anybody,” he joked.

Mattis lived in Tampa from 2010 to 2013 while he headed Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

“They say he’s the closest thing to General George Patton we have and it’s about time. It’s about time,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

The retired Marine Corps general has more than 40 years of military service, including holding key posts in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

When he left his position at CENTCOM, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had strong praise.

“Jim Mattis has been front and center of every major combat operation this nation has conducted for more than two decades,” Hagel said at a ceremony in Tampa.

Mattis may have difficulty getting confirmed.

Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand explained she plans to vote against him.

The U.S. Senate would need to make an exception when confirming him because he served in the military within the last seven years and his appointment would violate the 1947 Law.

It requires a civilian to lead the Pentagon; not someone recently in uniform.

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