President-elect Donald Trump has selected Virtu Financial founder Vincent Viola to be his army secretary, making him yet the latest billionaire to join a cabinet whose combined wealth already surpassed that of one-third of all Americans combined.
Viola graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1977 and served in the 101st Airborne Division — but is best known for acquiring significant wealth from founding the high-frequency electronic trading firm Virtu Financial.
Viola reported left the Army after his father suffered a heart attack and attended New York Law School, but wound up entering the world of finance instead of law. In addition to founding Virtu Financial, Viola also served as chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange from March 2001 to March 2004. In 2013 he purchased the Florida Panthers hockey team, reportedly based on "intuition." He took Virtu Financial public in 2015.
Viola is perhaps best known for bankrolling the Army's Combating Terrorism Center in West Point, New York, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has emphasized the need for improved techniques in cyber warfare, particularly in a 2011 speech at the LandWarNet conference.
“I think the Army of the future will be built around a gestalt of geekdom,” Viola proclaimed in that speech. He later added that "we’ve got to find geeks who love their country" and that "the Army is going to have to rethink the model of a warrior" in order to incorporate the new front of cyber warfare. He urged the Army to stay ahead of its enemies by taking advantage of technological innovation.
Naturally, any Cabinet selection means that there's a good chance there's some quid pro quo, and Viola has also done Team Trump a solid. After the end of the Florida Panthers season, Viola provided in July the chartered Boeing 737 that shuttled Mike Pence around. Nicknamed "Air Trump Two," the plane was used by Pence, his staff and the media covering him. "Trump Pence" and "Make America Great Again" were painted on its fuselage
“[Viola] is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others,” Trump said when announcing his pick. “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.”