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Trump Picks Billionaire NHL Owner to Lead Army

Donald Trump has nominated Vincent Viola for his Secretary of the Army. Viola has had a formidable career in both the military and in business.

The Hill reports:

President-elect Donald Trump will nominate former infantry officer, billionaire businessman and National Hockey League team owner Vincent Viola as secretary of the Army, his transition team announced Monday.

Viola, who is reportedly worth $1.8 billion, is the founder of electronic trading firm Virtu Financial and was previously the chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange from 2001 to 2004.

Viola, a Brooklyn native whose father was a truck driver, graduated from West Point in 1977 and went on to be an infantry officer in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. After completing active duty, he remained in the Army Reserves.

In 1983, he graduated with a law degree from New York Law School. In 2003, Viola founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

“I am proud to have such an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual as Vincent Viola as our Secretary of the Army,” Trump said in a statement. “Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge.”

Viola is also the owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team, which he bought in 2013 for a reported $250 million. If Viola is confirmed, the ownership of the Panthers will be placed in a trust for the other members of the Viola family, and Douglas Cifu, vice chairman and alternate governor of the club, will take over Viola’s role as chairman and governor of Sunrise, Sports and Entertainment, according to a statement from the team.

“We are honored and humbled to see Mr. Viola nominated as the Secretary of the Army,” Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell said in a statement. “We could not be more proud for Vinnie and his dedication to our country.”

Forbes ranked Viola as the 374th-wealthiest person in the United States on its 2016 list of 400 richest people in America.

“It is an honor to be nominated to serve our country as President-elect Trump’s Secretary of the Army,” Viola said in a statement distributed by Trump’s transition team. “If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy.”

Viola said his primary focus as Army secretary will be to ensure the force has the means and ways to win a full-spectrum conflict.

“This great honor comes with great responsibility, and I will fight for the American people and their right to live free every day,” he added.

In announcing his pick, Trump hailed Viola’s work ethic, integrity and “strategic vision.”

“The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army,” he said.

The Army, like other branches of the military, has been squeezed in recent years by budget caps. Trump has said he wants to repeal the caps for defense spending and add another 60,000 active-duty soldiers to the Army.

Congress recently took steps to curb the troop cuts of the Obama administration, passing an annual defense policy bill that sets the Army at 476,000 soldiers.

Viola has spoken of the need for innovation in cyber warfare, saying at a 2011 conference that he thinks “the Army of the future will be built around a gestalt of geekdom.”

“We’ve got to find geeks who love their country,” Viola said, according to the military technology website Defense Systems. “At my company, I’ll gladly trade 10 pull-ups and five minutes on a run for 20 IQ points and heart.”

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

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