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Joint Chiefs Shake-Up Leaves Questions
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Joint Chiefs Shake-Up Leaves Questions

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Joint Chiefs Shake-Up Leaves Questions

Joint Chiefs Shake-Up Leaves Questions
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending the nation's top naval officer, Adm. Michael Mullen be nominated as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Peter Pace will not be reappointed to a second term. Jacki Lyden speaks with Chris Cavas, a reporter with Defense News.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending the nation's top Naval officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, to be nominated as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This, after Gates announced yesterday, that the current chair, General Peter Pace, will not be reappointed to a second term. Pace becomes the first chairman since 1964 not to be reinstated. With Pace stepping down, the administration avoids a divisive reconfirmation hearing before the Democratic-controlled Senate.

To find out more about Admiral Mullen, we turn to Chris Cavas who covers the Navy for Defense News, part of the Army Times Publishing Company, and thanks for being with us, Mr. Cavas.

Mr. CHRIS CAVAS (Writer, Defense News): Sure.

LYDEN: Admiral Mullen is currently chief of naval operations. Why do you think he was chosen?

Mr. CAVAS: Because he's a straight shooter. I think if you look at Gates and you look at Adm. Mullen, they're not dissimilar personalities. They're not excitable. They're not bombastic.

LYDEN: They weren't early supporters of the administration's strategy of the war.

Mr. CAVAS: Well, it's sort of interesting right now. So we have a new secretary of defense in Mr. Gates, and he's looking for new directions in the conduct of the war. People who are not personally invested in what's been going on, they're not - these are not their programs that they're either trying to put in place or had been in place and aren't working.

LYDEN: But does it make sense to have a Navy man chairman of the Joint of Chiefs at a time when we're engaged into substantial ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Mr. CAVAS: It's a fair question. A lot of people think about that. In the modern military world, it really is a joint world. The military calls it purple, purple meeting, you know, you've got green for Army, and khaki for the Marines and light blue for - the Air Force, and blue for the Navy. While - you can put them all together and you get purple. Purple means we're all the same thing.

And it - when you get to the higher levels of command, Joint is the only way to go. Nobody's going to do this on their own anymore.

LYDEN: Should we expect a change in strategy in Iraq with Admiral Mullen chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

Mr. CAVAS: I don't think so. I think - I don't think we're going to see any change in strategy for the time being. We've just had a change in strategy. The surge has just finished surging. We are now surged. How does this play out? Nominally, we're all going to be talking about this in September, how's it going? I don't think we're going to see any change until then.

LYDEN: But reports had been very mixed though, coming from the field. Leaks about the surge have indicated that it is not working as well as had been hoped. Will Admiral Mullen be in the inner circle in reassessing things?

Mr. CAVAS: He definitely will. And I think he'll ask the right questions.

LYDEN: What would those be?

Mr. CAVAS: Well, you get the same thing with Admiral Fallon. People will be asking not, you know, are we going to look good doing this. They're going to ask, is this really going to work? And again, they don't have anything personal invested in this - in these operations. They're coming in at a point where they can make an assessment and perhaps, they're in a better position to recommend a different way ahead if they feel that that's necessary.

LYDEN: Since they weren't part of the originally planning. How he interact with General Douglas Lute, the Iraq-Afghanistan war czar - to use the phrase - who has been skeptical in the past?

Mr. CAVAS: I have absolutely no idea. I mean, seriously, this is…

LYDEN: So the big question mark.

Mr. CAVAS: General Lute's position is entirely new. I don't know what a war czar is. The whole concept of a war czar is outside all organizational, administrative, strategic thinking that we do. We've never had anybody like that.

LYDEN: What if I tell you that it's the first time since 1964 that a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hasn't almost automatically been renewed after a two-year term?

Mr. CAVAS: It is surprising. And truly, that's why I think this caught a lot of people off guard. People sort of thought that the re-nomination of Peter Pace was going to be pro forma. A lot of people inside the Pentagon don't view Peter Pace as an architect of the war. Of course, he's been part of the planning.

The Joint Chiefs are not commanders, you know. They're not commanding anything. They are the senior's officers in the service. But it's essentially an advisory board to provide the services a way to think together and then present that advice to the president.

That has declined in recent years where only the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has gone to advice the president and Rumsfeld took that even further and said, the chairman is just supposed to advice me and I'll go advice the president.

So there has been a sort of a shunting aside in a lot of ways that certainly shapes the military. The military, like anybody else, doesn't want to be ignored and hopefully, things might change now.

LYDEN: Well, Chris Cavas with the Defense News. Thanks very much for coming in today.

Mr. CAVAS: Sure.

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Gen. Pace to Step Down as Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace i

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace appear before a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearings, May 9, 2007. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace appear before a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearings, May 9, 2007.

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Adm. Mike Mullen i

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen testifies on the defense budget before the House Armed Services Committee, March 1, 2007. Mullen has been recommended to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
Adm. Mike Mullen

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen testifies on the defense budget before the House Armed Services Committee, March 1, 2007. Mullen has been recommended to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will recommend Adm. Mike Mullen, currently the chief of naval operations, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen would replace Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who has held the post since 2005.

If formally appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, Mullen would replace Pace as the nation's top military officer.

Gates, speaking at a Pentagon news conference, said that Mullen has the "vision, strategic insight and integrity to lead America's armed forces."

Gates said that until recently, he had intended to renominate the Marine general for another two years, but that after consulting with senators in both parties, he had concluded that "the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past and not on the future," apparently suggesting that reconfirmation would meet stiff resistence in Congress.

"I am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them," Gates said. "However, I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform, and Gen. Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Asked by reporters whether the decision had anything to do with Pace's conduct of the war in Iraq, Gates replied: "It has absolutely nothing to do with my view of Gen. Pace's performance."

Gates said Mullen "is a very smart, strategic thinker. And I think he has a view of the interests of the services as a whole."

Mullen has served as chief of Naval Operations since July 2005. His previous assignments included being commander of the NATO Joint Force Command Naples and commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968 and later the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He earned a masters of science degree in operations research from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Mullen has commanded three ships and served in leadership positions at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Navy's Bureau of Personnel, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Navy Staff.

Pace, 60, was the first U.S. Marine to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was sworn in on Sept. 30, 2005, and served as principal military adviser to the president during the Iraq war.

Pace was also the first U.S. Marine to serve as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the post he held before becoming chairman.

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Teaneck, N.J. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967 and earned a master's degree in Business Administration from George Washington University.

Pace also attended Harvard University for the Senior Executives in National and International Security program and graduated from the Infantry Officers' Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Ga.

As chairman and vice chairman, Pace has been involved in all of the key decisions leading to the 2002 invasion of Iraq and planning for the post-Saddam Hussein era.

The war, now in its fifth year, has claimed the lives of more than 3,500 U.S. troops.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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