Obama to Nominate Gen. Joe Dunford as Joint Chiefs Chairman – Wall Street Journal

Before becoming Marine Corps commandant last year, Gen. Joe Dunford served as top international commander in Afghanistan.
ENLARGE

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama plans to nominate Marine Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s most senior military post, according to defense and administration officials.

The appointment is set to be announced Tuesday at the White House, officials said.

Gen. Dunford would succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is retiring this year as the top military adviser to the president and defense secretary.


The Joint Chiefs chairman isn’t directly in the chain-of-command that leads from the White House to the battlefield. However, the job carries a large role in influencing the use of American military power and advising the president on when to use the armed forces.

Before becoming Marine Corps commandant last year, Gen. Dunford served as top international commander in Afghanistan.

While in Kabul, Gen. Dunford advocated for continuing a troop presence in Afghanistan past the end of 2014, arguing in closed-door meetings that a U.S. and international force was needed to ensure the peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan.

Still, like Mr. Obama and Gen. Dempsey, Gen. Dunford has been skeptical of long deployments of large numbers of U.S. forces. He faces confirmation by the Senate in a process led by Republicans wary of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.

Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview that Gen. Dunford showed while commanding international forces in Afghanistan that he has the tactical judgment and political acumen to lead the U.S. military.

“He understands the costs for the men and women of the armed forces when you use military force,” Sen. Reed said. “But he also understands the need to defend the United States.”

Senate Republican aides said that Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the committee chairman, considers Gen. Dunford his top preference for the post, suggesting the Marine commandant will find a route to confirmation. Sen. McCain didn’t comment Tuesday.

If confirmed, Gen. Dunford would be the second Marine officer to hold the top military job. Gen. Peter Pace was the first Marine to become chairman, named by former President George W. Bush. But Gen. Pace was denied a second two-year term as chairman when Senate Democrats objected to his renomination.

Also, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva will be nominated to become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the defense and administration officials. Adm. James Winnefeld, the current vice chairman, is slated to retire.

Gen. Selva served as a top Air Force strategist before joining the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to work directly for Adm. Michael Mullen, a former Joint Chiefs chairman, who retired in 2011. Gen. Selva serves as the head of transportation command.

His assignment as vice chairman is considered a nod to the Air Force, which hasn’t had an officer in the No. 1 or 2 position on the Joint Staff since Gen. Richard Myers served as chairman, retiring in 2005.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

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