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ARLINGTON, Va. — Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, has been recommended as the next head of U.S. Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday.

Willard’s previous command positions include vice chief of naval operations; commander of U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan; and commander of Carrier Group 5 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

If confirmed, Willard would replace Adm. Timothy Keating, who has led PACOM since March 2007.

Keating came to PACOM after leading U.S. Northern Command, which was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to protect the United States.

Gates did not say who might replace Willard as head of Pacific Fleet.

In other changes, Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser, deputy PACOM commander, has been recommended to be the new head of U.S. Southern Command, Gates said.

Before coming to PACOM, Fraser was based in Elmendorf Air Base, Alaska, where he oversaw Alaskan Command, Pacific Air Forces and the Alaskan North American Defense Region.

Gates also announced that Adm. James G. Stavridis has been recommended as the next head of U.S. European Command.

Stavridis is currently head of U.S. Southern Command. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Gen. John Craddock, who has been leading EUCOM since December 2006.

Also Wednesday, Gates said he had recommended that Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright continue to serve as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff respectively for another two years.

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