With Flynn gone, next national security adviser must be a civilian
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In his statement about the resignation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the national security adviser, Sen. John McCain writes: “General Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus. As our nation confronts the most complex and diverse array of global challenges since the end of World War II, it is imperative that the President select a new national security adviser who is empowered by clear lines of authority and responsibility and possesses the skills and experience necessary to organize the national security system across our government.”

Senator McCain implies that the new national security adviser should be from the military — someone with the “skills to organize the national security system across our government.” I contend at this point in the Trump administration, the person who takes the job should not come from the military. The resignation of Gen. Flynn allows for a complete reset for who should take on this critical and important role. A civilian in the role would send the better signal to the intelligence community. Without the perception of an authoritative figure in the role, the next national security adviser could be someone who creates good policy without the preconceived notions of having an agenda.


Historically, the role of the national security adviser depends on the personality and management style of the president, as well as the overall skills of the individual appointed. The national security adviser is also someone who is appointed by the president without Senate confirmation. While there were many red flags associated with Gen. Flynn’s appointment to the role to begin with, on the surface he seemed to have the experience to cut across the national security system to participate in the National Security Council, as well as chair the all important Principal Committee with the secretary of State and secretary of Defense.


Unfortunately, it looks like the Flynn didn’t have the personality for the job. Perhaps the most apparent character flaw of Gen. Flynn was his dogmatic personality, especially from someone who has spent a great many years of his military service working with special operators. Gen. Flynn’s success as the intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and Gen. Stanley McChrystal in targeting specific terrorist organizations in Iraq doesn’t translate well into the development of a grand intelligence strategy for the country.

At this point, what is required is someone who will work across all the intelligence agencies within the U.S. government. This person needs to create the teamwork for the State Department and Defense department to work together to address both the stated national security concerns, as well as the implied secondary and tertiary challenges which stem from not effectively solving the initial problem. The person needs to be policy agnostic; someone that will make sure everyone is heard, everyone gets a vote, and there is complete buy in from the entire national security apparatus.

While perhaps some of the flag officers on the short list don’t have the same type of bullheaded and cocksure personality Gen. Flynn has, they still bring to the table the military experience at the highest level. They are all used to having things done their way. We already have two retired flag officers in cabinet roles.

Reaching back to a former national security adviser in the previous Republican administration, Stephen Hadley could fill the role. There must be other similar candidates who understand the role. Given all the new faces, it would give the country confidence that someone in role was more about collecting, coordinating and processing intelligence instead of giving off the perception of having an agenda towards it.

I encourage President Trump to seek out a non-military person to be the new national security adviser and empower them to organize the complex national security apparatus, which allows him the best information and courses of action he needs to take to keep the country safe.

Maj. Mike Lyons (Retired, U.S. Army) is a senior fellow with the Truman National Security Project and is a military analyst for CBS News.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill