Air Force leader Brown will be appointed to chair Joint Chiefs, reports say
Stars and Stripes May 5, 2023
Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr., the Air Force’s current top officer, is expected to soon be nominated by the White House to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to multiple reports.
Brown would replace Gen. Mark Milley, who is slated to retire this summer after serving as the top military adviser to the president for the past four years.
The appointment would mark the first time that the Pentagon’s two top positions will be held by Black men, with Brown joining Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
He also would be the second Black officer appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Army Gen. Colin Powell served in that capacity during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Brown would step into the role having already broken down racial barriers as the first Black officer to lead one of the military’s service branches.
President Joe Biden also was considering Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, for the position. However, Politico and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Biden ultimately decided on Brown.
It’s not clear when Biden will formally announce his nomination.
Before serving as Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Brown commanded the Air Force in the Pacific, which gives him experience grappling with the challenge posed by China.
Brown has given blunt assessments of what is in store from Beijing. In 2021, he told reporters that the world is experiencing changes to the “rules-based international order” not seen since World War II.
“To put the gravity of our pacing challenge in perspective, at the height of the Cold War, the USSR’s GDP was 57% of the U.S.’s,” Brown said. “China’s economy will likely exceed the U.S.’s in dollar terms as the largest economy in the world in the next 10 years ... I really believe, without change, we are at risk of losing.”
He also held senior positions for the Air Force in Europe and the Middle East.
In military circles, Brown is regarded as a low-key leader not inclined to seek out the spotlight. But in 2020, he garnered national attention when he weighed in on the racial unrest roiling the country in connection with the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was choked to death by an arresting officer.
In an emotional 5-minute video, Brown spoke of “living in two worlds” and the racial divide that many Black Americans feel. He also talked about the challenges of rising through the ranks as a Black pilot, a rarity in the service when he was a young officer.
“I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers, and then being questioned by another military member, ‘Are you a pilot?’” he said at the time.
While Brown’s job as chairman would revolve around advising Biden on top security concerns like countering Russia and China, he also will likely have to contend with the ongoing culture wars in the United States.
In recent years, the military has found itself caught in the middle on so-called “woke” issues such as transgender rights, drag queen performances on bases and books in military school libraries related to gender identity.
Such matters are likely to come up during Brown’s nomination process.
Last week, he got a sampling of such questions during a congressional hearing about an Air Force Academy diversity training initiative that suggested cadets consider favoring words such as “parents” or “guardians” instead of “moms and dads.”
“Part of leadership is understanding the people you are privileged to lead,” he said. “And as you have that opportunity, you get to know them. Now, every one of us grows up differently and has different experiences and different backgrounds, and we can’t assume who we engage with.”