Obama Taps Dempsey, Winnefeld as Chairman, Vice Chairman

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced his choic­es as chair­man and vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dur­ing a Rose Gar­den cer­e­mo­ny today.

Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee as chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walks with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the cur­rent chair­man, before the Nation­al Memo­r­i­al Day Con­cert at the U.S. Capi­tol, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., May 29, 2011.
DOD pho­to by U.S Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Chad J. McNee­ley
Click to enlarge

Oba­ma intends to nom­i­nate Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey as chair­man and Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Win­nefeld, Jr., as vice chair­man. Dempsey cur­rent­ly is the Army chief of staff and Win­nefeld is the com­man­der of U.S. North­ern Command. 

Dempsey will replace Navy Adm. Mike Mullen when his term ends Sept. 30, and Win­nefeld will replace Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright when his term ends in July. The pres­i­dent intends to nom­i­nate Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no to suc­ceed Dempsey at the Army post. 

The Sen­ate must approve the nom­i­na­tions and the pres­i­dent called on the body to act expe­di­tious­ly so the mil­i­tary tran­si­tion will be “seam­less.”

“The men and women of our armed forces are the best our nation has to offer,” Oba­ma said dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny. “They deserve noth­ing but the absolute best in return – that includes lead­ers who will guide them, sup­port their fam­i­lies with wis­dom and strength and compassion.” 

The pres­i­dent said the men he has cho­sen will make an extra­or­di­nary team at the Pen­ta­gon. “Between them, they bring deep expe­ri­ence in vir­tu­al­ly every domain – land, air, space, sea, cyber,” he said. “Both of them have the respect and the trust of our troops on the front­lines, our friends in Con­gress, and allies and part­ners abroad. And both of them have my full confidence.” 

The pres­i­dent called Dempsey one of America’s most respect­ed and com­bat-test­ed offi­cers. “In Iraq, he led our sol­diers against a bru­tal insur­gency,” the pres­i­dent said. “Hav­ing trained the Iraqi forces, he knows that nations must ulti­mate­ly take respon­si­bil­i­ty for their own secu­ri­ty. Hav­ing served as act­ing com­man­der of Cen­tral Com­mand, he knows that in Iraq and Afghanistan secu­ri­ty gains and polit­i­cal progress must go hand in hand.” 

Dempsey has a rep­u­ta­tion of push­ing his forces to change and adapt and the pres­i­dent said he expects that, as chair­man, Dempsey will do the same for all forces, “to be ready for the mis­sions of today and tomorrow.” 

Win­nefeld led the USS Enter­prise car­ri­er bat­tle group in some of the first strikes against al-Qai­da in 2001. “Hav­ing served as a NATO com­man­der, Sandy is well-known to our allies,” Oba­ma said. “Hav­ing served on the Joint Staff, he is known and trust­ed here at the White House. Most recent­ly as the head of North­ern Com­mand, Sandy has been respon­si­ble for the defense of our home­land and sup­port to states and com­mu­ni­ties in times of cri­sis, such as the recent tor­na­does and the floods along the Mississippi.” 

Oba­ma called Odier­no one of the Army’s most accom­plished sol­diers. Cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the com­man­der of U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand, Odier­no served three defin­ing tours in Iraq, the pres­i­dent said. They includ­ed com­mand­ing the troops that cap­tured Sad­dam Hus­sein, part­ner­ing with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to help bring down the vio­lence, and then trans­fer­ring respon­si­bil­i­ty to Iraqi forces, allow­ing the Unit­ed States to rede­ploy more than 100,000 troops and end the com­bat mis­sion in the country. 

“After years on the front­lines, Ray under­stands what the Army must do: to pre­vail in today’s wars, to pre­pare for the future, and to pre­serve the readi­ness of the sol­diers and fam­i­lies who are the strength of America’s fam­i­lies,” Oba­ma said. 

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates gave an enthu­si­as­tic endorse­ment of the three nom­i­nees. “Gen­er­al Dempsey, Admi­ral Win­nefeld and Gen­er­al Odier­no have all excelled in key com­mand and staff roles with­in their ser­vices and in the joint are­na,” the sec­re­tary said in a pre­pared statement. 

“They pos­sess the right mix of intel­lec­tu­al heft, moral courage and strate­gic vision required to pro­vide sound and can­did advice to the pres­i­dent and his nation­al secu­ri­ty team,” Gates con­tin­ued. “Above all, they are proven lead­ers of men and women in com­bat oper­a­tions over the past decade, and are unique­ly qual­i­fied to guide and shape our mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions through the chal­leng­ing times ahead.” 

Oba­ma said he’s been grate­ful for the advice and lead­er­ship of the cur­rent chair­man and vice chair­man. “Like Pres­i­dent Bush before me, I’ve deeply val­ued Mike’s pro­fes­sion­al steadi­ness and his per­son­al integri­ty,” he said. “On his watch, our mil­i­tary forces have excelled across the whole spec­trum of mis­sions, from com­bat in Iraq and Afghanistan to relief efforts after the Haiti earthquake.” 

Mullen has helped revi­tal­ize NATO, helped re-set rela­tions with Rus­sia, and has helped steer impor­tant rela­tion­ships with Chi­na and Pak­istan, the pres­i­dent said. “I believe that his­to­ry will also record Mike Mullen as the chair­man who said what he believed was right and declared that no one in uni­form should ever have to sac­ri­fice their integri­ty to serve their coun­try,” Oba­ma said, refer­ring to Mullen’s pub­lic sup­port for sup­port­ing repeal of the law that pre­vent­ed gays from serv­ing open­ly in the military. 

Oba­ma called Cartwright a rare com­bi­na­tion of tech­ni­cal expert and strate­gic thinker. The gen­er­al has lead U.S. think­ing on cyber, space and nuclear issues. “I’ll always be per­son­al­ly grate­ful to Hoss for his friend­ship and part­ner­ship,” the pres­i­dent said. “And as he con­cludes four decades of ser­vice in the Marine Corps that he loves, he can do so know­ing that our nation is more secure, and our mil­i­tary is stronger, because of his remark­able career.” 

Gates echoed Obama’s tes­ti­mo­ni­als of the two men. “I have enjoyed work­ing with Admi­ral Mullen and Gen­er­al Cartwright and ben­e­fit­ed great­ly from their wise coun­sel,” he said. “All Amer­i­cans owe these two fine offi­cers and their fam­i­lies a debt of grat­i­tude, and I look for­ward to pay­ing fuller trib­ute to their accom­plish­ments at the appro­pri­ate time.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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