Trump picks billionaire entrepreneur to lead Army, adds more stars to national security team

President-elect Trump has nominated Vincent Viola to serve as the next Secretary of the Army.

A US Military Academy at West Point alum, former Army infantry officer, and graduate of the service’s elite Ranger School, he is the founder of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm, and the owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Viola is also the former Chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Although he has spent the majority of his professional life in the private sector, Viola played a vital role in the establishment of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, an independent research and educational institution that contributes to the academic body of knowledge and informs counterterrorism policy and strategy.

A longtime proponent of defense innovation and DOD engagement with the commercial technology sector, as Secretary of the Army Viola is expected to champion rapid acquisition programs, dramatic improvements in cyber warfare capabilities, and the type of fail-fast culture celebrated by leading Silicon Valley technology companies. In 2011, during his opening remarks at a major defense conference, he predicted that, “the Army of the future will be built around a gestalt of geekdom,” adding that the service “is going to have to rethink the model of a warrior.” Elaborating, Viola proclaimed that at his company, he would “gladly trade 10 pull-ups and five minutes on a run for 20 IQ points and heart.”

Unlike some of Trump’s other recent selections for high-level Administration positions, the Viola nomination has received strong bipartisan praise. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated that Viola’s “dedication to the [Army] is second to none” and that he is “up to the job.” With staunch support from the Senate’s new top Democrat, Viola should enjoy a smooth confirmation process.

Retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg named NSC Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary

Adding another general officer to the ranks of his defense and national security team, the President-elect has selected retired Army three-star general Keith Kellogg to serve as Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. An early and ardent Trump supporter, and longtime Trump campaign advisor, Kellogg is a veteran of the Vietnam War, Panama Invasion, and Gulf War. He commanded the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, worked as Director of Command, Control, Communications, and Computers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Coalition Provisional Authority transitional government in Baghdad, Iraq.

After his retirement, Kellogg held several executive-level positions with defense firms, including Cubic, CACI, and Oracle. He will serve directly under incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is also a retired Army three-star, and Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland. In this role, Kellogg will be one of the President-elect’s leading advisors on national security matters. He joins Flynn, and retired Marine generals James Mattis and John Kelly, Trump’s respective Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security nominees, as the fourth general officer selected to serve in a Cabinet or other high-level position within the incoming Administration.

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Chris Fetzer

About Chris Fetzer

Chris Fetzer is a partner in Dentons' Public Policy and Regulation practice and leads the Defense and Security Policy team. A native Washingtonian with an established track record of securing favorable outcomes to complex, high-stakes problems at the intersection of business, law, policy, and politics, he focuses on advocacy and strategy in the defense, trade, security, energy (including oil and gas), agriculture, technology, and foreign affairs arenas.

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