- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The White House yesterday said President Bush has made his selection for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and will announce his choice as early as tomorrow.

Speculation on who will be the nation's highest ranking military officer on Oct. 1 comes as one of two finalists, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the current Joint Chiefs vice chairman, goes to the president's Texas ranch tomorrow, along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, along with other national security officials, are to brief the president on the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a major study designed to reshape the military for 21st-century threats.

The Washington Times reported Aug. 11 that Gen. Myers and Adm. Vernon Clark, chief of naval operations, were invited back for second interviews by White House officials and were the finalists. Adm. Clark was viewed as the front-runner at that time.

Mr. Rumsfeld originally had broached five names to the White House, including Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, the early front-runner who heads U.S. Space Command.

Gen. Myers, a career fighter pilot who once led Space Command, has been the defense secretary's military point man in overseeing QDR studies and panel discussions. The review is aimed at arriving at the strategy, and proper force structure and mix of weapons, for the 1.37 million active-duty armed forces.

Mr. Bush's pick will replace Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, who retires as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sept. 30 after two two-year terms. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold confirmation hearings next month before the full Senate votes on the nomination.

"The president will be welcoming to the ranch in Crawford a group of defense experts for part of the ongoing discussions of the military transformation and the strategic reviews that have been under way," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters yesterday in Crawford, Texas. "General Myers will be one of the people attending. He's been in attendance at these meetings. He's one of the key people involved in the military transformation."

As the chief military adviser to the president and the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will play a key role in carrying out Mr. Bush's national security vision.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have limited discussion of the next chairman to a handful of senior aides. Mr. Bush is known to enjoy surprising the media in his major appointments. Gen. Myers and Adm. Clark are not products of a service academy as are most four-star officers. Gen. Myers, 59, entered the Air Force in 1965 after graduating from Kansas State University. Adm. Clark, 56, a career surface ship commander, received a Navy commission in 1968 after graduating from Evangel College in Missouri. Mr. Bush is said to get along well with both men, who have strong backgrounds in managing operations.

Adm. Clark directed the Pentagon's Joint Staff during the bombing of Serbia and later commanded the Atlantic Fleet. Named chief of naval operations in July 2000, Adm. Clark has focused on restoring combat readiness lost in the 1990s.

Gen. Myers, named vice chairman in March 2000, serves on panels that set acquisition and nuclear weapons policies, and is the right-hand man on developing a new QDR to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

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