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WASHINGTON -- The military parade for Donald Trump has come early. Two months before Inauguration Day festivities, an extraordinary number of recently retired generals, including some who clashed with President Barack Obama's administration, are marching to the president-elect's doorstep for job interviews.
It's not unusual for an incoming administration to consider a retired general for a top position like CIA director. But Trump has turned to retired officers so publicly and in such large numbers that it raises questions about the proper balance of military and civilian advice in a White House led by a commander in chief with no defense or foreign policy experience.
The tilt toward military officials may reflect a limited pool of civilian options. Many officials from previous Republican administrations politically disowned Trump during the campaign, calling him unqualified. And Trump suggested he wouldn't want many of them, as he vowed to "drain the swamp" by running establishment figures out of town.
Robert Goldich, a retired government defense analyst who has watched administrations for 44 years, says Trump's focus on retired generals might be unprecedented.
The only one announced for a top job thus far is Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general. Trump appointed Flynn as his national security adviser, a post that does not require Senate confirmation but is central to a president's decision-making process. Flynn was forced out as Defense Intelligence Agency director in 2014. Afterward, he strongly criticized the Obama administration's approach to fighting the Islamic State group and threw his support to Trump.
Among others under consideration are two retired four-star Marine generals -- James Mattis for defense secretary and John Kelly for homeland security secretary. Other names surfacing include retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and David Petraeus, the retired four-star general who was Obama's CIA director in 2011-12 before resigning amid disclosure that he had an affair with his biographer and shared highly classified information with her.
In remarks to the New York Times on Tuesday, Trump spoke about the Pentagon post in ways that offer insight into why he is attracted to former generals like Mattis.
"I think it's time maybe, it's time for a general," Trump said, suggesting he favors a military mindset. "Look what's going on. We don't win, we can't beat anybody."
Kelly retired this year after a storied career capped by commanding the U.S. Southern Command, where he differed with the White House over closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and expressed doubts about the administration's moves to open all combat jobs to women.
Bing West, a Vietnam War veteran and former assistant secretary of defense, said Trump's outreach to retired generals is wise.
"Our country is fighting a long war. It's common sense to seek the experience of those who have proven they know how to fight," he said in an email exchange.