President Barack Obama said Marine General Joseph Dunford, his choice for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is one of the military’s best strategic thinkers as well as one of its most admired leaders.
Obama said Tuesday that he’ll nominate Dunford to replace Army General Martin Dempsey, 63, who’s completing his second two-year term as the country’s top military officer. The president also selected Air Force General Paul Selva, head of the military’s transportation command, as vice chairman.
In choosing Dunford, 59, Obama is turning to an experienced commander of ground forces as the administration is trying to combat Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria while preparing for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I know Joe, I trust him,” Obama said in making the announcement at the White House.
Dunford, whose nomination is subject to Senate confirmation, drew praise from Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent critic of Obama’s national security policy.
“General Dunford’s exemplary service in Iraq and Afghanistan makes him a strong choice as we confront threats to stability and peace in both countries and throughout the region,” McCain of Arizona said in a statement Tuesday.
The committee’s top Democrat also commended Obama’s choice.
“General Dunford has the experience and vision to lead the Joint Chiefs and help shape our national security strategy at a time of enormous global challenges,” Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said in an e-mailed statement Monday.
Dunford currently serves as commandant of the Marine Corps. Before taking that post in October, he served as the top commander of U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, where he warned against a hasty withdrawal of forces.
Dunford served as an infantry officer at all levels of the Marine Corps. He commanded the 5th Marine Regiment during the Iraq war.
“He may be the best choice for the job in my quarter-century in D.C., given his smarts, creativity, pragmatism, calm and cool, and experience,” Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said in an e-mailed statement.
Dunford holds master’s degrees in government from Georgetown University in Washington and in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Dempsey, the 18th Joint Chiefs chairman, has served in the post since 2011, guiding the military’s ground troops out of Iraq and then organizing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria three years later to confront the rise of Islamic State fighters.