Secretary of Defense James Mattis is wasting no time in his new role at the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense James Mattis visits the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2017, to pay his respects to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

Shortly after being confirmed and sworn in, Mattis spoke with his counterparts from the United Kingdom and Canada and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, according to readouts of the calls provided by Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

The Department of Defense’s release says Mattis’ first call to a defense counterpart since his confirmation Friday was made this Monday to Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan. The defense secretary thanked Sajjan for his leadership and the deep and enduring defense partnership between the United States and Canada, Davis said. The two reiterated the depth and breadth of the relationship shared between the United States and Canada as North American Aerospace Defense Command partners, NATO allies and North American neighbors, he said.

In his conversation with U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, Mattis emphasized that the uniquely close relationship between the U.S. and U.K. will continue and is reflected in defense ties that are the bedrock of U.S. security, Davis said.

Mattis also emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to NATO and thanked Fallon for his country’s commitment to contribute two percent of gross domestic product to defense and for the U.K.’s contributions to international security, the captain said. The two leaders pledged to work together in the coming months, agreeing to maintain focus on defeating ISIL, Davis said, and they pledged to continue to work closely together. The leaders noted they looked forward to meeting at the NATO defense ministerial in February, he added.

Secretary Mattis, who previously served as NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, spoke with Stoltenberg to reconnect and discuss the key role NATO plays in transatlantic security, Davis said. Mattis “wanted to place the call on his first full day in office to reinforce the importance he places on the alliance,” the captain said.

The two leaders discussed the importance of our shared values, and the secretary emphasized that when looking for allies to help defend these values, the United States always starts with Europe, Davis said.

Secretary Mattis is also getting his staff in order in the early days.

Navy Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller will be assigned as senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Mattis, according to a DoD release.

Faller is currently serving as chief of legislative affairs for the Secretary of the Navy in Washington.

Faller assumed duty as chief of legislative affairs in June 2014. In that position, he serves as the principal liaison between members of Congress and the Department of the Navy leadership. He previously served as U.S. Central Command’s director of operations.

A 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a native of Fryburg, Pennsylvania, Faller earned his Bachelor of Science degree in systems engineering. He earned his master’s in National Security Affairs (Strategic Planning) from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990.

Mattis is also pledging to work with the State Department to strengthen relationships.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives at the Pentagon on his first full day of office in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives at the Pentagon on his first full day of office in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a story published by the Washington Post, the secretary spoke to civilians emphasizing their importance in defending America and its freedoms.

“We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country,” Mattis’ statement said. “You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.”

According to the Post’s story, Mattis is the first senior military officer to serve as defense secretary since President Truman nominated Army Gen. George C. Marshall for the job in 1950, as the U.S. military struggled in the Korean War.

Mattis retired in spring 2013 as the chief of U.S. Central Command after a career in which he became one of the most influential officers of his generation and commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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