Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Generals, Admirals scramble for top U.S. posts
Jen Judson, Politico, Mar 10
There’s a mad scramble developing among the nation’s top military brass.
Up for grabs are the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army chief of staff and the chief of naval operations. Vice Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld’s term ends Aug. 4, Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno’s last day is Sept. 6, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert clocks out on Sept. 22. And Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is set to retire on Sept. 30.
In order to get Senate confirmation hearings out of the way before the long August congressional recess, President Barack Obama will have to make his nominations by early June, which means Defense Secretary Ash Carter will have to present his list of possible candidates by the beginning of May.
Amid all the jockeying, Carter will offer his two cents, but the decisions ultimately fall to the president, who makes the nominations.
As the deadlines loom, replacements are bubbling to the surface. Here’s a rundown:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford is seen as a favorite to take over the chairmanship among many Washington think-tankers. He was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan from February 2013 until August 2014 and, earlier, was a commander during the 2003 invasion in Iraq.
At the Brookings Institution, Michael O’Hanlon calls Dunford the “best ‘all-around-athlete’” for a move up. And the president has worked very closely with Dunford while he was the commander in Afghanistan and is believed to get along well with him.
Dunford may also be an attractive candidate because there’s a general well-poised to take over as commandant should he become chairman: Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
Vice Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld is also a promising selection for chairman. The Navy has a good chance of getting the top post because it’s believed another Army general will not be selected, according to Ray DuBois, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Army generals have held the position more than any other service.
Adm. Samuel Locklear is also reported to be high on the list. Defense One reported on Tuesday his retirement as commander of U.S. Pacific Command may have been delayed to keep him on the list for chairman while his successor, Adm. Harry Harris, waits in the wings.
Center for a New American Security analyst Jerry Hendrix says Locklear is considered a very strong candidate in Navy circles. “There is a Kabuki dance to keep Locklear eligible,” Hendrix said. “He is in the mix.”
Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh is also a contender, especially since he’s had ground-floor experience with major acquisition programs that will continue to be a big deal going forward, like the next-generation bomber and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But some analysts believe that experience means it would be better for him to stay on as Air Force chief during an expected tumultuous time for the service.
Welsh had a strong tour as assistant to the chairman in the Pentagon, which could give him a leg up, according to Hendrix.
U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Lloyd Austin and U.S. European Command chief Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove could also be on the list, but removing them from their posts during extremely tense times in the Middle East and Europe might become a factor.
One dark horse that has emerged for the chairmanship, or potentially the vice chairmanship, is Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, chief of U.S. Transportation Command. One analyst said Selva was in the hunt, but couldn’t say how seriously he is being considered.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Army is going to lobby hard for this since there’s a chance it won’t get the top post when Dempsey leaves. This puts Gen. John Campbell in the running, according to DuBois. Campbell left his post as Army vice chief of staff last summer to take over as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and has led the transition from Operation Enduring Freedom to the Resolute Support Mission.
If the Navy gets the chairmanship, the Army and the Air Force will likely have to duke it out for the vice chairmanship, DuBois said. It also follows that if the Air Force gets the chairmanship, the Navy might push to keep Winnefeld in his current post, but he’s already served two two-year terms, so the likelihood of that is questionable.
Welsh could be a candidate again as vice chairman and Selva could be considered a dark horse candidate.
Army Chief Of Staff
The top Army job will likely go to either Campbell, if he doesn’t get tapped for vice chairman, or Gen. Vincent Brooks, the U.S. Army commander in the Pacific.
Both Campbell and Brooks meet the criteria for Army chief of staff, according to DuBois, with combat and leadership experience.
It’s also possible, DuBois noted, that if Campbell doesn’t get vice chairman, he could be slated to lead a combatant command rather than take over as the Army chief.
Brooks is a particularly strong candidate because the president will likely look at whether a candidate possesses experience that aligns with the White House’s policy – such as the pivot to the Asia-Pacific, DuBois said.
The Army’s Pacific commander was in Washington last week, speaking at several think tanks, including CSIS, and DuBois noted afterward that “you saw a very confident, very articulate general.”
But the bench is a lot deeper, DuBois said.
Vice chief of staff of the Army Gen. Daniel Allyn, U.S. Army Forces Command chief Gen. Mark Milley, Army Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins and Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti, who is the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, are also possible candidates.
Chief of Naval Operations
U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney is considered at the top of the list to become the next CNO, according to CNAS’ Hendrix. A former submarine officer, Haney was also commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The Navy’s biggest challenge in the next four years is to get an Ohio-class submarine replacement, and Haney is one of the only guys on the list who is “deeply immersed” in the issue and can offer guidance through the process, Hendrix said.
Adm. Mark Ferguson, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and a former vice CNO, is also a possibility.
Adm. Michelle Howard, the vice CNO, also has a good chance of getting the top spot, but she is younger, has only been in her current post for about six months and could still get a chance at CNO later in her career.
A possible dark horse: U.S. Fleet Forces Command chief Adm. Philip Davidson, who jumped about 22 other vice admirals who were more senior when he was elevated to Fleet Forces commander from the 6th Fleet command post, according to Hendrix.
The Navy made him a four-star and got him in there in a hurry for a reason, he added. But, like Howard, he’s younger and his time to have a real shot at CNO could come later.