Pentagon Prepares For Changes At The Top
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
We're going to talk, now, about the changes at the top of America's military.
MONTAGNE: Good morning.
TOM BOWMAN: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: What are you hearing about General Petraeus? I mean, when might he step down?
BOWMAN: Some people I talked with say this is a done deal. Others say, listen, it's going to be a while before Gates recommends someone to the president.
MONTAGNE: You mentioned General Petraeus is a household name. What could, would, or might come next for him?
BOWMAN: But he also has his detractors. Some see him as too ambitious, too political. He was criticized, you know, by some for being too close to President Bush. So if he's not offered the top job, military job or something else, he'll likely retire.
MONTAGNE: Okay, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, he'll be leaving in September. What do you think he'll be remembered for?
BOWMAN: Well, Mullen has made a lot of inroads with Pakistan, with military leaders there - much closer ties. But he'll really be remembered for, I think, pushing for an end to "don't ask, don't tell," the law that barred gays from serving openly in the military. And Mullen framed this as a moral issue. He said it's wrong to ask people to lie about who they are - people who serve in uniform. And he was really out front on this. And I think he convinced a lot of members of Congress to change the law. His likely replacement is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Jim Cartwright.
MONTAGNE: And the third key Pentagon figure is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
BOWMAN: And as far as who will replace Gates, couple of names we're hearing is the CIA Director Leon Panetta, who also was a member of Congress, and also John Hamre, who served as the number two Pentagon official under President Clinton.
MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, Tom, given that these are three really big names, is there a problem having all new people moving into these slots approximately at the same time?
BOWMAN: You know, I think there is a problem. It's a hard transition for anybody moving into the Pentagon or chairman of the Joint Chiefs. But to do it in the middle of two wars like this is very difficult. And clearly, it looks military operations could increase in Libya, as well. So it's going to be a hard transition.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
BOWMAN: You're welcome, Renee.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.
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