President Obama announced his intention to nominate Gen. Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Gen. Dempsey will replace ADM. Mike Mullen, who will retire as chairman when his term ends on September 30.  Speaking at a White House Rose Garden ceremony on Memorial Day, the president described Gen, Dempsey as “one of our nation’s most respected—and combat tested—generals.”  President Obama said he expected Dempsey to continue to work for change as chairman, as he did in the Army, and “push all our forces to continue adapting and innovating to be ready for the missions of today and tomorrow.” 

Gen. Dempsey moves from his current position as Army Chief of Staff, a position he assumed only last month.  He has served for almost 40 years and before becoming Army Chief of Staff commanded the US Army Training and Doctrine Command.  Prior to that duty, Dempsey served as Deputy Commander and then Acting Commander of U.S. Central Command.  Before that he commanded the 1st Armored Division in Iraq and then led the training of Iraqi Security Forces as Commanding General of MNSTC-1.

The president also announced he will nominate ADM James “Sandy” Winnefeld, Jr., as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He will replace Gen. James Cartwright, who will retire in July.  ADM Winnefeld, currently commands U.S. Northern Command.  Winnefeld commanded the 6th Fleet and also has NATO command experience, serving as commander of NATO Allied Joint Command in Lisbon, and commander of Striking and Support Forces NATO.  As commander of the USS Enterprise, he directed air strikes in Afghanistan right after 9/11. 

If confirmed by the Senate, the president said the new chairman and vice chairman will for the first time “have the experience of leading combat operations in the years since 9/11.” 

To replace Gen, Dempsey as Army Chief of Staff, the president announced that he will nominate Gen. Ray Odierno, currently commander of U.S. Forces Command.  Gen. Odierno also has extensive experience in Iraq, most recently as commander the Multi-National Force and U.S. Forces in Iraq.

President Obama thanked ADM Mullen and Gen. Cartwright for their service.  He applauded ADM Mullen for his ‘professional steadiness and his personal integrity” and cited his accomplishments as helping to revitalize NATO, reset relations with Russia, and guide relations with Russia and Pakistan.  The President described Gen. Cartwright as a technical expert and strategic thinker and thanked him for his “friendship and partnership” as Vice Chairman.

These announcements, along with his choice of Leon Panetta to replace Secretary Gates this summer, will mark a significant change in the top leadership at DoD this year.  Saying that he wanted to make these changes as seamless as possible, the president thanked Deputy Secretary Bill Lynn for his continuing service during the transition.