Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced June 8 that he will recommend that President Bush nominate Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen to replace Marine Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a Pentagon news conference, Gates said he also will recommend Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright for the position of vice chairman. Cartwright is the commander of U.S. Strategic Command. Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., the current vice chairman, announced his decision to retire last week.
â€œI have become well acquainted with Admiral Mullen over the last six months and believe he has the strategic insight, experience and integrity to lead Americaâ€™s armed forces,â€ Gates said.
Gates said he intended to renominate Pace and Giambastiani but after consulting with senators of both parties came to the following conclusions:
"Because General Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future,â€ Gates said.
He said the confirmation process would have the possibility of being quite contentious.
â€œI am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them,â€ Gates said. â€œHowever, I have decided at this moment in our history the nation, our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.â€
Pace will continue to serve as chairman until his term ends Sept. 30. He is the first Marine to hold the position.
Pace, a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served as a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam and commanded at all levels of the Marine Corps. He was serving as the commander of U.S. Southern Command when nominated to be the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2001. He took office weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
In 2005, he was nominated to be the chairman. The chairman serves as the principle military advisor to the president, secretary of defense and the National Security Council.
Mullen is a 1968 graduate of the Naval Academy. He is surface-warfare qualified and has commanded three ships: USS Noxabee (AOG 56), USS Goldsborough (DDG 20)and the USS Yorktown (CG 48). As a flag officer he commanded the George Washington Battle Group and served as the commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet/NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic.
Gates said that Pace has served as a Marine for more than 40 years.
â€œHe deserves the deepest thanks of the American people for a lifetime of service to our country and for his leadership,â€ Gates said. â€œI have thoroughly enjoyed working with him, trust him completely, and value his candor and willingness to speak his mind.â€
From American Forces Press Service