Gen. Pace to Step Down as Chairman of Joint Chiefs Secretary of Defense Robert Gates names Adm. Mike Mullen to replace Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. Mullen's nomination will go to Congress for confirmation.
NPR logo Gen. Pace to Step Down as Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Gen. Pace to Step Down as Chairman of Joint Chiefs

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

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Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

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

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

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

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