- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2018

The current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 10 months left on his term, but President Trump over the weekend laid out an early succession plan and said he’ll tap Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley as the Pentagon’s next top officer.

Gen. Milley, 60, was appointed to his current job by President Barack Obama in 2015. As Joint Chiefs chairman, he will replace Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who has held the post since 2015.

Gen. Dunford’s term lasts until Oct. 1, 2019, and he’s given no indication he plans to step down before then. But Mr. Trump over the weekend hinted that the change could come sooner.

“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” the president tweeted over the weekend. “I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country!”

“Date of transition to be determined,” Mr. Trump concluded.

Pentagon officials over the weekend said they expect Gen. Dunford to serve out the remainder of his term. They also said Defense Department personnel have full confidence in Gen. Milley to take over the role.

“We are aware of the president’s nomination and share his confidence for General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the United States Army, to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told the Military Times. “The Department of Defense remains fully focused on defending our nation.”

Gen. Dunford has served as America’s top military officer at a crucial time, leading the armed forces through a years-long fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and managing a robust U.S. presence around the world.

Gen. Milley, a Massachusetts native who has made modernization of the Army a top priority, brings with him a wealth of experience. Before being appointed to his current role, he held command assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group and III Corps.

He also served three combat command tours in Iraq and was the head of International Security Assistance Force command, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

During his tenure, Gen. Milley oversaw the move of women into front-line infantry and combat positions. He also spearheaded the opening of the Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas, a groundbreaking initiative that now serves as the epicenter for the Army’s response to 21st century threats.

“This command is our scout into the future,” he said during the command’s opening ceremony in August. “We need to think about tomorrow.”

Gen. Milley also led the review of the case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban. He was held in captivity for five years.

Mr. Bergdahl ultimately was charged with desertion and other offenses, and was dishonorably discharged.

Lawmakers praised the selection of Gen. Milley, and there seems to be little doubt he’ll easily win Senate confirmation to the post.

“I’ve known General Milley for years and met him on numerous occasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s a battle-tested commander and Pentagon reformer who will be a worthy successor to General Dunford,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said in a statement. “As to General Dunford, he served Presidents Obama and Trump with distinction and has much to be proud of during his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He’s one of the most dedicated officers I’ve ever known. I wish him well.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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