The maritime strategy web-site www.informationdissemination.net yesterday put in the public domain rumors about the new lineup of joint military leaders that have been swirling around the Pentagon for weeks. The site reported that the final list of proposed personnel changes sent to the White House for approval would recommend Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz as the next Vice Chairman. The same posting stated that former Iraq War commander Gen. Ray Odierno is the choice to succeed the recently-installed Dempsey as Army Chief of Staff, and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert is being recommended as the next Chief of Naval Operations.
Greenert has long been viewed as the likely successor to current CNO Gary Roughead, so not much news there. The rest of the information is hot stuff, though, because until late April the race to succeed Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was thought to be mainly between Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright and Adm. James Stavridis, currently head of U.S. European Command. The possibility that Gen. Dempsey might get the nod for the top military job only began circulating two weeks ago, when rumors started to spread that Adm. Stavridis had not fared well in his White House interview for the chairman’s position. Gen. Cartwright’s chances had previously been thought to be fading due to marital problems. Cartwright was widely viewed as a White House favorite for the job, but his enemies have been orchestrating a smear campaign behind the scenes to discredit him, linking him romantically to everybody from female aides to the head of a government agency.
As for Air Force Chief of Staff Schwartz, he looks to be a very safe choice for Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Schwartz has extensive joint credentials and is a reliable team player — a quality that proved critical when Gates decided to purge his predecessor in the Air Force’s top uniform job. Schwartz deserves some kind of medal for defending his service’s roles and missions in joint deliberations at a time when the Air Force’s influence had fallen to a low ebb. Army Gen. Ray Odierno had been viewed as the top choice for the Vice Chairman’s job, but if Gen. Dempsey is to be chairman then Odierno can’t be the Vice Chairman. Making Odierno the Army Chief of Staff fills the hole that would be created by a Dempsey departure with a seasoned combat veteran who is given high marks for his operational skills. The Army needs somebody with such credentials to keep its programs from unraveling as wars wind down.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill is working overtime to generate news about how senior Pentagon political appointees might be shuffled when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is succeeded by CIA Director Leon Panetta. At least three different names have been mentioned as potential successors to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn — which probably comes as a surprise to Lynn, who has signaled no intention to depart. The names most frequently mentioned for the number-two slot are acquisition chief Ashton Carter, policy chief Michelle Flournoy, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki (the former Army Chief of Staff). However, none of these possibilities makes much sense for different reasons, so it may be Lynn isn’t going at all. A former protege of the famously liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy, Lynn hasn’t gotten the kind of authority he might have hoped for during the tenure of holdover Republican hardliner Gates; but a Panetta succession seems tailor-made to expand Lynn’s role, since Panetta isn’t up to speed on many defense issues and probably won’t remain in office for long after next year’s election. Rumors that Under Secretary Carter will move to the Department of Energy as Secretary or Deputy Secretary persist.
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