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Bush OKs Sweeping Changes for Top Posts of the Military

April 11, 2002|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — President Bush has approved sweeping changes at the top of the U.S. military that will put in place a new generation of relatively nonconformist officers who are likely to be more supportive of the administration's goal of radically changing the armed forces, Pentagon officials said Wednesday night.

The changes will, among other things, for the first time put a Marine in charge of U.S. military operations in Europe and Africa, officials said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has worked for months on filling the top command slots, which involve the chiefs of U.S. forces in every region of the world except the Pacific, as well as the heads of two of the four armed services. He has said he expects the moves to be one of his most significant acts at the Pentagon.

For two of the most important positions--the top military job in Europe and the new head of the Army--Rumsfeld has selected independent types who stand out among the current top brass as unconventional thinkers who are likely to be supportive of his drive to "transform" the military to better address terrorism and other new challenges, the officials said.

The changes come as part of the normal rotation of the top slots in the military. But Rumsfeld's decision to package them is a marked departure from the usual practice of filling the jobs in a piecemeal fashion, and underscores his goal of bringing radical change to the military at a time when it is waging a global war against terrorism.

Rumsfeld has not disclosed to aides how and when he plans to officially announce the nominations. But by reaching his decisions, discussing them broadly within the administration and securing the president's approval, Rumsfeld effectively has made lame ducks of current holders of the positions.

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