President-elect Donald Trump has nominated as his Army secretary Vincent Viola, an Army veteran who became a billionaire after founding an electronic trading firm and went on to buy the Florida Panthers hockey team.
Viola is a 1977 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and funded the creation of its highly regarded Combating Terrorism Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A former infantry officer and Ranger School graduate, he has pressed for innovation in cyber warfare, saying at a conference five years ago that the Army of the future will be built on 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.”
Viola made the bulk of his fortune after founding Virtu Financial, a high-frequency trading firm. He was the chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange from March 2001 to March 2004, and took Virtu public in April 2015.
Trump said Monday in a statement that Viola has a proven track record for delivering results despite challenges.
“He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others,” Trump said. “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.”
Viola said that, if confirmed, a primary focus of his leadership will be ensuring that soldiers have the means to fight and win conflicts of all kinds.
“This great honor comes with great responsibility, and I will fight for the American people and their right to live free every day,” Viola said.
Viola purchased the National Hockey League’s Panthers team in 2013, saying that he did so based on “intuition.” He moved to Florida, and said then that he planned to retire there.