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Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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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 suspendor removea provision contained in Title 10 U.S.C. 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. This provision was originally contained in the 1947 National Security Act P.L. 80-253, which mandated that 10 years pass between the time an officer is relieved from active duty and when he or she could be appointed to the office of the Secretary of Defense. Only one exception to this provision has been made. Enacted on September 18, 1950, at the special request of President Truman during a time of conflict, P.L. 81-788 authorized the suspension of statutory requirements otherwise prohibiting General of the Army George C. Marshall from serving as Secretary of Defense. In 2007, Section 903 of the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act P.L. 110-181, Congress changed the period of time that must elapse between relief from active duty and appointment to the position of Secretary of Defense to seven years.

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