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Obama to name new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The president is expected to name Army Gen. Martin Dempsey to the post on Memorial Day, according to an administration official.

May 29, 2011|By Peter Nicholas, Washington Bureau
  • Army Gen. Martin Dempsey is nominated as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey is nominated as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs… (Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington — President Obama is expected to announce Monday that he will name Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rounding out the new Pentagon team charged with the delicate task of winding down the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.

Obama is likely to nominate Dempsey as the successor to outgoing chairman Adm. Michael G. Mullen at an event in the Rose Garden on Memorial Day, an administration official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.

The appointment completes a major reshuffle of the president's top military team. Last month he announced that CIA chief Leon E. Panetta would succeed Robert M. Gates as Defense secretary. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is now the top commander of the war effort in Afghanistan, will take over for Panetta at the CIA.

Dempsey has served as Army chief of staff since April. If confirmed by the Senate, he would come to the Joint Chiefs job with extensive experience in Iraq, having served two tours of duty in the war launched by then-President George W. Bush in 2003.

In picking Dempsey, Obama bypassed Gen. James Cartwright, a candidate described by journalist and author Bob Woodward as the president's favorite general.

Cartwright, who serves as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the subject of an inspector general's inquiry into whether he had an improper relationship with a female subordinate. Details of the inquiry were released in February.

The inquiry cleared Cartwright of allegations that he had a sexual relationship with the woman. But it recommended administration action for two lesser charges, including failing to discipline the woman in connection with an episode in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, in which she fell asleep in his hotel room for 45 minutes after drinking with colleagues.

One of Dempsey's immediate tasks would be advising Obama on the pace of a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, due to begin in July. When Obama announced in December 2009 that he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, he also pledged that he would begin withdrawing forces from the war in July of this year. The Obama administration says that Afghanistan's government will take the lead in fighting the war in 2014.

Dempsey may need to help solve a disagreement between the military and Obama's civilian advisors, who have clashed over the pace and magnitude of the troop withdrawal. White House advisors have insisted that the troop drawdown must be a meaningful one, while military leaders have said the reduction should be based on conditions in Afghanistan.

Dempsey, a 1974 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is married and has three children.

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