Obama’s New Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

Things have been fairly quiet here—all of us here at QP have been pretty busy with the end of the year and the onset of summer.  Anywho, I came across this article today and wanted to offer a few quick comments.

Obama has named Admiral Mike Mullen's replacement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as is often a general trend, a Democrat  has appointed an Army officer.  General Dempsey was actually just named to be the new Army Chief of Staff after General George Casey.  

I don't really have too much to say about this appointment, but I'm curious about this appointment in the context of Obama's having named Petraeus and Panetta a few weeks to to two very important posts.  I don't really know much about Dempsey to be honest, but shy of asking Admiral Mullen to stay on I'm surprised that Petraeus wasn't chosen for this post.  As I've said previously, being a good commander doesn't necessarily mean that Petraeus will make a good CIA director.  

That said, I reiterate that I don't know much about Dempsey's career, aside from the fact that he has experience in the middle-east region as deputy and then acting commander of central command.  In any event, I assume that the Obama administration wants to appoint someone that is in sync with the trajectory that the current team has been pursuing.  As near as I can tell, the administration's relationship with Mullen has been a harmonious one, so I can't imagine that his replacement will be much different with respect to his attitudes on military spending, troop withdrawals, etc.  

This CNN article has a bit more than the BBC on the reasons why current vice-chairman James Cartwright didn't get the top job.  These may be valid reasons, but there really isn't much of a precedent for this happening anyway.  Richard Myers and Peter Pace both served as vice-chairman before being promoted to chairman, but aside from these two appointments there is nothing to give one cause to assume that this would be the case.  Now, it may be the case that Cartwright has a "special relationship" with the administration that would lead one to believe this, but the CNN article suggests that this was probably not going to happen, and that it has been pretty apparent that this wouldn't happen for some time now.  That said, the vice-chairman as an office has only been around since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, so insofar as these top national security positions are concerned, it's still a young post, and such norms may develop in the future.    

About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

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