When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sat down with leaders in Saudi Arabia last week, a top White House official traveling with him offered up a new label for the Pentagon chief, who is well known as a combat-hardened former general: “favorite of the president.”
The depiction from deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, however lighthearted, sheds light on the substantial role that Mattis has assumed since taking charge at the Pentagon three months ago, as one of President Trump’s most influential advisers and a commanding voice on foreign policy issues.
Mattis’s strong standing in Trump’s Cabinet makes the top Pentagon position more powerful than it has been in recent years, helping to steer the administration toward more traditional foreign policy positions while allocating greater authority and resources to the military at a time of complex and myriad global threats.
“You’re seeing the effects of his influence because he does have a worldview that is defined and also because of the structural differences in this administration,” which has moved decision-making power away from the White House to agencies like the Pentagon, said Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security.
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