Secretary of DefenseJames N. Mattis

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis smiles while walking outside by a pillar.

The Role

The secretary of defense is the primary advisor to the president on defense-related issues and is responsible for formulating and carrying out the general defense policy for the United States. The defense secretary is a member of the president’s cabinet and the National Security Council.


Check out photos of Secretary Mattis talking with troops, working with leaders and attending ceremonies and events.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis walks with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and a group of people down a hallway.

The Person

James N. Mattis once told troops, “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” As secretary, he is focused on building a more lethal force, strengthening traditional alliances and new partnerships, and reforming the department’s business practices. A native of Richland, Washington, Mattis became the 26th defense secretary Jan. 20, 2017. During more than four decades in uniform, he commanded Marines at all levels, including in combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.