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H.R. McMaster: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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President Donald Trump shakes hands with US Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, his news national security adviser. at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. (Getty)

Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster was chosen to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser for President Donald Trump. The 54-year-old McMaster, who earned the nickname “The Iconoclast General,” is a career Army officer who is still serving. He served in the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Before becoming NSA, McMaster was the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Senator John McCain praised Trump’s decision to pick McMaster for the job, calling him an “outstanding choice” and a man of “genuine intellect, character, and ability” who “knows how to succeed.”

“President, thank you very much. I would just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation,” McMaster said when Trump introduced him. “I’m grateful to you for that opportunity, and I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people. Thank you very much.”

McMaster has been married to Kathleen Trotter since 1985. They have three daughters, Katharine, Colleen and Caragh.

Here’s a look at McMaster’s life and career:


1. McMaster Wrote the Book ‘Dereliction of Duty,’ Criticizing Vietnam-Era Officers

In 1997, McMaster published Dereliction of Duty, a book that criticized the military officers of the Vietnam War era for not challenging President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara over their Vietnam strategies. Surprisingly, the book is on the Marine Corps. reading list as suggested reading for colonels and generals.

McMaster wrote the book for his University of North Carolina Ph.D. thesis. The book also remains highly influential in the Pentagon. According to a CNN report from 2006, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, “considered the seminal work on military’s responsibility during Vietnam to confront their civilian bosses when strategy was not working.”

McMaster’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Joint Service Commendation Medal. He also has medals from his service in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism. He also received a NATO Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medals from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

McMaster is remembered by many at his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, as a “soldier scholar” when he was completing his doctoral dissertation. ““He is a straight shooter,” UNC professor Michael Hunt told the News-Observer. “He can listen, he can argue, he’s analytically sharp. He was just really on fire.”

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2. McMaster Warned That the Army Is ‘Out-Ranged & Outgunned by Many Potential Adversaries’

As a futurist within the Army, it was McMaster’s job to predict how the U.S. will do against future threats. In an April 2016 testimony before the Air-Land subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee though, he warned that the Army is too small at this point and the shrinking needs to stop.

“We are out-ranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries,” McMaster said, reports Breaking Defense. “[And] our army in the future risks being too small to secure the nation.”

At the time of his testimony, there were only 980,000 soldiers in the Army. The Army Times later reported that the Army is at its smallest size since before World War II.

“As we look to the future sir, we think that risk will become unacceptable,” McMaster told Senators. Even today, “we’re having a harder and harder time for the smaller force to keep pace with increasing demand.”

The outspoken McMaster also warned that U.S. Army technology is falling behind. “The Bradley fighting vehicle and the Abrams tank will soon be obsolete… but they will remain in the Army inventory for the next 50 to 70 years,” he said.

McMaster is also concerned that Russia is ahead of the game in battle drones. As Defense One reported in September, McMaster said that the U.S. Army is playing catch-up in that area.

“This is a big area of focus. We’re looking at a whole family of unmanned systems from the very low squad level. What I’ve talked about as a priority is the squad at a foundational level,” said McMaster. “We need a number of platforms that we can deploy. We’re interested in vertical-takeoff-and-push capability” as well as drones that can fly autonomously, resist complex electromagnetic attacks.” The Army wants drones “that can be deployed from a vehicle and hover over a vehicle. We’re experimenting with all of these capabilities,” he said, reports Defense One.

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3. McMaster Calls Cyber-Terrorism a ‘Significant Threat’

In a 2014 interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, McMaster stressed the importance of the Army working together to face threats. His words could also apply to the political climate in Washington as well.

“We’ve got to work across the whole Army, because the future course of the Army is what 51 percent or more of the Army believes it is every day. So, you can’t work in a vacuum — you’ve got to work with everybody on it,” McMaster said.

In that same interview, McMaster was serious about the threat cyber-terrorism poses to the U.S.

“I think cyber-terrorism — espionage as we are learning — is a significant threat. The fact is the cyber-domain is a contested space every day already,” McMaster explained to the Ledger-Enquirer. “The key question is, how does this fit into the overall problems of future war?”

He continued, “I think the key thing for us is really going to be how we develop systems that are resilient, that are able to allow us to operate and communicate freely during operations. And then we have to learn how we disrupt enemy capabilities to affect us. I think we have some really great people working on this right now, but of course this is a relatively new area that we have to cope with.”

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4. McMaster’s Success at the Battle of 73 Easting Was Included in a Tom Clancy Novel

One of the key battles in the Persian Gulf War McMaster participated in was the Battle of 73 Easting. He was a captain, commanding Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Even though his group was outnumbered by the Iraqi forces, their nine tanks easily defeated the enemy’s forces because they were using outdated technology.

In an essay for The Strategy Bridge, McMaster admitted that future wars will look very different from this nearly three-decade-old battle, but it still has lessons for today’s commanders.

“Although future battles will likely be fought against more capable enemies and under more challenging and complex conditions, there are lessons from battlefield victories twenty-five years ago that remain relevant to combat readiness today and in the future,” McMaster wrote. “Well-trained, confident platoons and companies provide the foundation for our Army’s and Joint Force’s ability to fight.”

McMaster’s success during the Battle of 73 Easting was included in the Tom Clancy nonfiction book Armored Cav.

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5. McMaster Is a Student of Military History Who Sees Similarities in All Wars

In a 2012 interview with McKinsey & Company, McMaster said that his interest in military history has been an influence on his career. Even though part of his current job is about looking to the future, there are factors of war that never change.

McMaster said in 2012 that one of the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan policies was planning for “a sustainable political outcome that would be consistent with our vital interests, and it complicated both of those wars.”

He also noted that war is “an inherently human endeavor,” and that no matter how technologically advanced the U.S. is, there is still a human factor.

“We assumed that advances in information, surveillance technology, technical-intelligence collection, automated decision-making tools, and so on were going to make war fast, cheap, efficient, and relatively risk free—that technology would lift the fog of war and make warfare essentially a targeting exercise, in which we gain visibility on enemy organizations and strike those organizations from a safe distance. But that’s not true, of course,” McMaster explained to McKinsey & Company.

During an interview with TBO.com in April 2015, McMaster stressed the importance of knowing how people act and interact when predicting the future of war.

“What we have to do is really develop the ability to think clearly about future war,” McMaster explained in 2015. “And what we have to do is identify changes in the so-called human domain and understand what is fundamentally driving conflict, which is human in nature.”

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42 comments

  1. Wow. That guy does *not* sound like he belongs in the cabinet… I give it 3 weeks, tops, before he says something completely factually accurate that Trump doesn’t like, and he gets canned.

    • If McMaster had a weaker personality, that would make sense. Unless McMaster opts to rein in his rather direct, dominant nature (which he’s not likely to do), Trump is more likely to back down and listen to him (like he does with Bannon). Unless the General does something to embarrass the regime (or gets pissed off enough at how it’s run), he’s not likely to be ousted.

      • I worked for H.R. for three years at the NTC, he is a brilliant man, Soldier and tactical genius. To think he would shoot his mouth off or embarrass the “regime” is simply to say you don’t know him.

    • Afterupon reading my Comment below… I’d be more concerned about what McMaster DOESN’T SAY!… and DOESN’T SAY to the American people!
      .
      Please!… no emails!

  2. okay totally off topic I know, but I don’t care if your on the left or right this crosses party lines, how does Trump expect anyone to take him seriously with THAT HAIR!! Please someone advise him to shave it. It’s ridiculous. It’s the absolute worst comb over I have ever seen. I mean he is literally lying about having hair on the top of his head by growing out the sides then swooping it over the top and gluing it down with massive amounts of hair spray. Please stop lying to yourself Donald, YOU ARE BALD!!! accept it and stop the lies! We see right through that horrible combover, I mean we LITERALLY can see right through it! Your part is as wide as the grand canyon.

  3. McMaster said in 2012 that one of the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan policies was planning for “a sustainable political outcome that would be consistent with our vital interests, and it complicated both of those wars.”

    In point of fact, planning was done. It was simply not implemented by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. The State Dept gave Rumsfeld a big guidebook that was the output of many many experts on how to handle Iraq after the hostilities. It was rejected by Rumsfeld because he was not interested in post-war plans. Chalabi was supposed to do all that effortlessly. In Afghanistan Karzai was supposed to be the unifying, charismatic leader and not a manic-depressive drug dealer skimming 15% of US efforts into a Swiss bank account. Of late, the US is horrible at finding good, post-conflict leaders.

    • The playbook was based on the US experiences in De-nazifying Germany and was a total failure. There was virtually no similarity between the modern Germany and the tribal Ariq & afghanistan.

    • Exactly right…..the planning of military ops should be left to the experts. Commanders have historically clashed with Washington over tactical and post-ops planning and the elected officials of whatever category need to stay out of decision-making of which they know nothing about. Just sign off and back those who know what works. Show some real leadership, check the egos. Donald Rumsfeld is a perfect example by the way. Cheney never could check his ego.
      Nevertheless, I believe General McMaster was eluding to this, and I hope he can pound some sense into this Cabinet. I think he can.

  4. Seems most people here commenting know nothing about the military of the chain of command. McMaster didn’t get where he is but being insubordinate to his commanders and higher ranking officials with the President being the CIC McMasters knows full well who his CIC is. Generals don’t have loose lips.

    • So you either didn’t actually read the article, or you glossed over the first point, wherein he criticized officers in Vietnam for not challenging the president?? But, whatever narrative works for ya, Georgie.

  5. what I find laudable is the subject of his book. The Armed Forces have the responsibility to judge whether a command is legal and the correct strategy for a situation

  6. McMaster is an excellent pick – in my opinion his first competent, capable pick for an important office. He has a great reputation as a thoughtul, analytical leader and certainly has not been afraid to publicly state where we have, and might still be, failing. I suspect his energy, clarity and logic will better Steve Bannon’s, and that’s a very good thing for the U.S.

  7. McMaster is very good in hindsighting analyses…especially about wars that have been documented and reported over since decades (Vietnam) and short distant past (Iraq, Afghanistan).
    I am a lazy armchair general , and I would be able to assess the same conclusions.
    But now for a change, could mr McMaster tell us exactly (he IS the specialist about future wars?!) how to shape the US military ? the geopolitical picture ? How to neutralise the global muslimisation threat ??
    No ?
    Then he is just another BS artist..

    • He was my squadron commander in Quarter Cav 99-02. The LTG is the real deal. Ask any trooper whom he led. The answer will be the same. He was also my regimental commander in ’04 when we Brave Rifles broke the back of the insurgents in Tal Afar. He’s not just an analyst who sat at a desk for 30 years.

      By the way, he has been shaping US doctrine and the way the army fights for decades, ever since 73 Easting.

  8. Many on here commenting have never served a second in their life. They have never led men into combat. At least now we have 2 individuals that respect the common soldier and want to truely provide our men and women with the best equipment and leadership possible before we commit our national blood to more political conflicts that we never seem to win.

  9. Oh Trumpeter against “Faux News”!… me thinks thou protesteth too mucheth! And!… as the reason for your recent White House buffoonish protestation revolves around the media’s recent revelations surrounding Michael Flynn’s “resignation”, I thought it appropriate to offer up what you– OBVIOUSLY!– don’t want others to know about…
    .
    .
    Since FORMER Security Adviser Michael Flynn “resigned” after media PROOFS emerged of his COLLUSIVE COMMUNICATIONS with Russian officials DURING this just past U.S. Federal Election (the which, you are now FEIGNING INDIGNATION!)!… or Flynn could have– and can now!– legally challenge this “TORTIOUS LEAK”!… this NOW PROVES that the claims of YOUR INVOLVEMENT in COLLUDING WITH RUSSIA/ PUTIN TO UNDERMINE HILLARY CLINTON (AND THE DNC!), A-R-E R-E-A-L (as YOU, OBVIOUSLY, had close ties with Flynn– and knew what Flynn was up to!)! And so, this then makes YOU, Trumpeter, a TRAITOR (as TECHNICALLY REVEALED in, “So what are we supposed to do now?”, by Keith Olbermann!)! And so!… FINALLY!… we can now arrest your *ss! Unless!… and of course!… you, and/ or Flynn can PROVE that the info released re Michael Flynn is “FAKE NEWS”!… and, on other grounds, is T-O-R-T-I-O-U-S!
    .
    In other words!… FAUX NEWS WHINER!… get your BIG MOUTH into a Civil Courtroom, and put your FAUX NEWS ALLEGATIONS DOLLARS where your “BLOWHOLE” is!
    .
    And folks!… failing to arrest Trump on grounds of RUSSIAN COLLUSION, places the ENTIRE American Intelligence machinery under suspicion of either UTTER INCOMPETENCE, or TRAITOROUS INDIFFERENCE to the safety and security of the American people!… AND!… to the safety and security of the GLOBAL COMMUNITY! And moreover!… if Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is unwilling– OR UNABLE!– to place as P-A-R-A-M-O-U-N-T the evidence linking Flynn and Trump to TRAITOROUS COLLUSION with Putin and with Russia, then McMaster needn’t bother unpacking!… and he should seek out his “political pipedreams, and fortune”, somewhere else!
    .
    And thus, and so!… the recent sociopsychopathic circumlocutory obfuscation emanating from the lips of Rep. Devin NUNSENSE, Chairreignor of the House “Intelligence Committee”, is MOST GALLING!
    .
    Frankly, his “AUTHORITATIVE INTIMATION” smacks of the same BULLSH*T EXCUSES offered up by critics of Julian Assange, afterupon Assange’s revelation that innocent citizens were killed in U.S. Military efforts to capture the “bad guys”! Rather than admit to the TRAITOROUS ACTIONS of Michael Flynn… and thereby, Donald Trump!… NUNSENSE would prefer to CLOAK these actions under the “slight-of-hand” of FAKE NEWS, and CRIMINAL SPYING against Michael Flynn and Donald Trump! And in the same manner that sundry have attempted to CLOAK the MURDEROUS ACTIONS of sundry members of the U.S. Military during the outset of Assange’s famous WikiLeak of AMERICAN MILITARY MURDERS! And it remains to be seen whether a Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will be following in the same footsteps as those of Rep. Devin NUNSENSE!… or, whether he will AWAKEN TO THE REALIZATION that his WOULD-BE boss is “forensically predisposed”, a cad, and, is deserving of JAIL TIME!
    .
    The involvement of Devin NUNSENSE notwithstanding, we’ll soon learn of the full nature of Flynn’s communications!… and, of Trumpeter’s complicity!… with, or without the assistance of Trump’s new PET Security Advisor! The TRUTH W-I-L-L “win out”! And!… Flynn didn’t “resign” over N-O-T-H-I-N-G!… if it was N-O-T-H-I-N-G, he would have had the sense to “do battle”! But!… because the “INTRApersonal heat”– at least!– was on, he decided to “cut and run”! And which brings to mind the words within Proverbs 28: 1… and which reads:… “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” [NIV]
    .
    And so… Why did Michael Flynn flee?… Why was he unsettled by mere “FAKE NEWS”? Well!… the answer rests– in part!– between his ears!… within his CONSCIENCE! And simply put, he didn’t like what he had allowed (and thus, sought to end the “INTERNAL CONFLICT”!)!… and/ or!… he was so overwhelmed by the media PROOFS offered up, that he had BUT ONE CHOICE to mitigate the STEADFAST PRESSURE of media, and public scrutiny!
    .
    As I’ve indicated above, Michael had– and has!– every opportunity to challenge any TORTIOUS IMPUGNING of his character (and ditto, for the Trumpeter!)!… of his “defense” of his past dealings with Russia, and with Hillary’s campaign and the DNC! But since he has chosen to reject challenging any “TORTIOUS ASCRIPTION”/ “external claims” re his past dealings with Russia, and with Hillary’s campaign and the DNC!… and thereby, has rejected standing up for his “vision” of a “SECURE AMERICA”!… we can be safe in assuming, that he was– and is!– WRONG for the job of SECURITY ADVISOR! And with that rejection, he has cast a shadow on his WOULD-BE boss!… and on the role his WOULD-BE boss has played, in the matters now under CONSCIONABLE INVESTIGATION elsewhere! And hence the reason, for the recent quickly mounted White House Press Office “MAGIC SHOW”, T-O D-U-P-E T-H-E D-U-P-A-B-L-E!
    .
    Lastly, on the matter of the revelations of Julian Assange… Julian Assange will be vindicated for his uncovering of the truth re sundry U.S. Military Strategic “Tactical Operations” that saw the wrongful deaths of innocent civilians, in the same manner that sundry were vindicated in the uncovering of the truth about the My Lai Massacre (see, Wikipedia!)! And!… DARE A-N-Y-O-N-E suggest today, that revealing the truth about what happened at My Lai, was a BETRAYAL of the interests of America, and of American Security!
    .
    Please!… no emails!

  10. Why does he not challenge Bush, Obama and Trump for failing to defeat ISIS, Al Quada ect ? Sound like his brown nosing to failed commanders like General Mattis has secured them nice cushy jobs despite over several decades of never winning a full scale war.(Since 1945)