Web edition, Friday, June 8, 2007

WASHINGTON — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace will be replaced in September rather than face a potentially hostile reconfirmation by the Senate, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced Friday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen will be nominated in Pace’s place and will take over the post when Pace’s current term expires in September.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the current commander of U.S. Strategic Command, was named to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to replace retiring Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr.

Gates said he had intended to renominate both Pace and Giambastiani, but was discouraged from doing so by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“Their comments were more about what they thought the hearings would be like than about Gen. Pace as a person,” Gates said. “Because of his experience over the last six years, the focus of the hearings would be backward-looking, and contentious.

“It was my decision that this kind of divisive ordeal was not in the best interests of the nation.”

Gates emphasized that the move was not a reflection on either Pace’s and Giambastiani’s performance, and said he received praise for both men from lawmakers with whom he spoke.

Pace was not available to reporters at Friday’s announcement. Giambastiani’s retirement was announced earlier this week, characterized as a decision to spend more time with his family and explore new opportunities.

Gates never directly mentioned Iraq or any current operations overseas in his brief meeting with reporters on Friday, but repeated several times that Pace’s “experience over the past six years” as chairman and vice chairman raised concerns of a lengthy and difficult confirmation hearing.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., echoed that concern.

“In response to a request from Secretary Gates, I solicited the views of a broad range of senators,” he said in a statement. “I found that the views of many senators reflected my own, namely that a confirmation hearing on General Pace’s reappointment would have been a backward-looking debate about the last four years.”

He added that Mullen appears to be a well-qualified replacement.

Pace was sworn in as the 16th Joint Chiefs Chairman in September 2005, the first Marine ever to be named to the post. He also was the first Marine to serve as vice chairman, a post he held from 2001 to 2005.

Mullen, a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has already served in a host of Navy, Joint Staff and Allied Forces leadership roles.

Prior to being named Chief of Naval Operations he served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Joint Force Command Naples.

As a flag officer he commanded Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two and the George Washington Battle Group. His last command at sea was as Commander of the U.S. Second Fleet and NATO’s Striking Fleet Atlantic.

Cartwright, currently responsible for the global command of U.S. missile defense, computer network operations and other strategic forces, was commissioned in 1971.

He has served as commanding general of the First Marine Aircraft Wing and deputy commanding general of Marine Forces Atlantic, and as a Marine aviator piloted the F-4, OA-4, and F/A-18.

Prior to his current post, Cartwright was director for Force Structure, Resources and Assessment for the Joint Staff.

Gates said no decision has been made on who will take over the chief of naval operations or U.S. Strategic Command posts.

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