Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress [January 5, 2017] [open pdf - 918KB]
"The proposed nomination of General (Ret.) James Mattis, United States Marine Corps (hereafter referred to as 'General Mattis'), who retired from the military in 2013, to be Secretary of Defense requires both houses of Congress to consider whether and how to suspend--or remove--a provision contained in Title 10 U.S.C. [US Code] §113 that states, 'A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.' [...] In response to the proposed nomination of General Mattis to the position of Secretary of Defense, Congress established special 'fast track' procedures governing Senate consideration of a bill or joint resolution which would suspend the existing seven-year restriction (Section 179 of the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017). Accordingly, there are at least three basic options that Congress may pursue as it considers the issue of General Mattis's nomination, [as discussed in this report]. [...] Historically, the restriction relating to the prior military service of the Secretary of Defense appears to be a product of congressional concern about preserving the principle of civilian control of the military. [...] Nearly 67 years later, the proposed nomination of General Mattis has again generated a debate amongst policymakers, scholars, and practitioners regarding what civilian control of the military means in a contemporary context, and how to best uphold that principle."
CRS Report for Congress, R44725
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html