WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House is negotiating a reality television show with producer Mark Burnett to identify the next secretary of defense nominee with President Donald Trump set to host, sources confirmed today.
The show, titled "Who Wants To Be A Defense Secretary?" will pit contestant against each other as they vie for the job of leading the U.S. military. Patrick Shanahan has been acting secretary of defense since January 1, 2019, and the White House must nominate a permanent appointee for Senate approval.
“As President Trump says, a lot of people want to be part of this cabinet,” said a senior Defense Department official involved in the show's development. “And he proved on ‘The Apprentice’ that nobody is better at picking winners from the pack in a way that’s both thorough and entertaining.”
The Department of Defense is America’s largest employer, with over three million uniformed and civilian members. Presidential administrations often nominate appointees who are government or private sector leaders experienced with managing substantial programs or national security issues.
“Selecting a nominee the traditional way would be the opposite of draining the swamp,” said a senior White House official. “We want to give the best leaders a chance to compete. They could come from any circle – government, industry, or even television commentators. They have a unique perspective on national defense issues because they talk about them so much and many are retired majors or colonels.”
Although the show is in the early development, it will include Burnett’s familiar reality show “challenges” where contestants compete to prove their skills. One challenge will require contenders to reallocate funds to another government project while transforming the Defense Department to face peer and near-peer adversaries while simultaneously managing a housing crisis. Another will require withdrawing forces from previous conflict commitments without any discussion with senior commanders, strategic analysis, or military decision-making processes that normally support such planning.
In a challenge tentatively titled “Allies, (Huh, Good God Ya’ll) What Are They Good For?,” contestants will have to find innovative ways to pursue military cooperation with countries that traditional allies call “pariahs.”
“Mil-to-mil cooperation with allies is easy. An innovative leader finds ways to cooperate with so-called despots,” said a Defense Department official.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, a past front-runner for defense secretary and an expert on military affairs after a tour in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a contender, according to sources. A second possible challenger is Russia expert and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.