Small Wars Journal

LtGen Jim Mattis to US Joint Forces Command (Updated)

Update 12 September 2007: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced yesterday that the President has nominated U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis for appointment to the rank of general with assignment as Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, VA. NATO has also agreed to appoint LtGen Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.


A rumor we have been hearing since May was reported on yesterday in the North County Times -- Lieutenant General James Mattis (USMC) has been nominated for his fourth star and slated to take over US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

Camp Pendleton's Lt. Gen. James Mattis will be nominated for the rank of general and appointed commander of a high-level military planning and strategy unit based in Virginia, the North County Times has learned.

Mattis, whose present job is commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command and head of Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force, will become head of the Joint Forces Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation.

Multiple sources within the military and in Washington, D.C., confirmed that Mattis, who has overseen Marine Corps forces in the Middle East for the last 15 months and is regarded as a "warrior monk" for his intellectual acumen and war-fighting skills, will be nominated for a fourth star by President Bush.

An announcement of the nomination is expected to come from the Defense Department within days. The move is subject to Senate confirmation.

While this nomination will remove one of our most capable generals from command of operationally deployed units it does hold good tidings for the future of Joint operations capabilities, concepts, and doctrine and training development.

USJFCOM was the command that, in 2002, served up the experiment, war game, computer simulation, live field exercise (one-size fits all) Millennium Challenge (MC02). Setup by JFCOM to showcase Joint Vision 2020 (JV 2020), Effects Based Operations (EBO), Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO) and Operational Net Assessment (ONA) -- and there were other ornaments on that Christmas tree -- MC02 came to a grinding halt when the 'Red Team' (enemy) commander, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper (USMC Ret.), conducted his own rapid, decisive operation to achieve desired effects based on information superiority and soundly defeated the Joint Force of the future - using asymmetric tactics and commercial-off-the-shelf technologies.

The Mattis nomination is one small step for sound Joint capabilities, one giant leap for a future firmly grounded in reality.


Tom Barnett on this post:

A good sign for the evolution of the force. The ultimate "monk of war" takes over the primary "force generating" command, whose Area Of Responsibility is "the future"!

Abu Muqawama - First blog catch honors:

You can all file this story in among those Abu Muqawama very much hopes are true.



Sun, 09/09/2007 - 1:11pm

Ironhorse: "We practice OTAW - operations that are war."

Precisely right. A short time ago, I interviewed General B.B. Bell, CDR, U.S. Forces, Korea (for full interview see: ). As is my practice in all four-star interviews, I asked him to frame for himself a question that he is burning to answer. He spoke directly to Ironhorse's assertion: "In this globalized world, we are not through with threats to the United States that emanate from nations and states who have become our competitors for either resources, or our way of life--free trade, democracy, or individual freedoms. We must defend our interests, and we need a military that is sufficiently <I>full spectrum capable</I> so that we can defend ourselves however we are threatened--whether it's a terrorist threat with a nuclear weapon, a terrorist threat with an IED, or a nation with a big army, air force, and navy. We owe it to our Constitution and to our citizens to defend our nation against all enemies--every one of them--who pose a threat to our way of life. So beware of a military that walks away from conventional force capability and structures itself to deal solely in counterinsurgency because that will create the vulnerability that some nation will try to take advantage of."

As Rob Thornton notes, General Mattis is a full-spectrum warrior and this promotion is indeed good news for us all.

Semper Fi,

Rob Thornton

Sun, 09/09/2007 - 12:11pm

I believe this to be very good news for the Joint Force. As JFCOM has the responsibility for Joint Doctrine, I think a 4 star General Mattis will play a large role enabling our move forward in addressing the range of threats that face us. For all the reasons his name came up recently for other critical commands, he is the right GO.

Best Regards, Rob

SWJ Groundskeeper

Sun, 09/09/2007 - 7:06am

I think most have seen that internet fluff with this paraphrased observation, in response to a JFCOM brief: <em>I've heard of buzz words, but until now I hadn't really seen a buzz paragraph.</em>

Despite all his leadership across the full spectrum of COIN, I still regularly think back to two Mattis-isms credited to him from his 7th Marines days and his managing the over-zealous rush to ju jitsu inspired by then newfound service rediscovery of MOOTW and Maneuver Warfare:
<li>We practice OTAW - operations that <em>are</em> war.</li>
<li>Sometimes, the best way to influence the mind of the enemy commander is to put a bullet in it.</li>

Perhaps more of the more extreme fantasy speak you outline will get its own head shots now. It can be a fine line between being too unreasonable, and not being visionary enough (though we can miss it by a long shot, too). I hope and suspect we'll get some more clarity there.