Obama Appoints Martin Dempsey as Joint Chiefs Chairman, in a Hurry to Get New Military Team in Place

May 30, 2011 11:31am

ABC News’ Ann Compton and Avery Miller report: In a hurry for what he called a “seamless” transition in war time,  President Obama has nominated more promotions from within as he reshapes his military team, today  choosing four-star Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Martin Dempsey is one of our nation’s most respected — and combat-tested generals,” the president declared in a hot and sunny Rose Garden announcement this morning. ”I expect him to push all our forces to continue adapting and innovating to be ready for the missions of today and tomorrow.”

Dempsey had just moved into the office of the Army Chief of Staff, a job that will now go to former Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno, who stood at attention in today’s ceremony, with the glaring sun shining on his bald head.

The president called Odierno — a hulking figure and familiar face from the Iraq war — “one of the Army’s most accomplished soldiers — and one of the tallest.” 

Navy Adm. James “Sandy”  Winnefeld was nominated to be Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs. 

The current team, Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Vice Chair Marine Gen. James Cartwright, do not retire for several months but President Obama says he’s in a hurry.

“It’s essential this transition be seamless and that we remain focused on the urgent national security challenges before us,” he said.

The president wants a new team in place when he begins to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July. These new appointments move the president closer to having his national security team in place as he runs for re-election next year. Dempsey will need Senate confirmation.

Dempsey’s nomination came as a little bit of a surprise when Obama’s rumored choice, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, hit a rough patch. His management style was criticized and the Pentagon investigated claims of misconduct with a young female aide who had allegedly become drunk and slept in his hotel room. The quick turn of events was reflected in the fact that Dempsey had only been appointed to his current job as Army chief of staff on April 11. Obama lightly referenced the fact to “Marty” that his term as Army chief of staff had probably been the “shortest” in history.

Obama has now put a battle-tested team in place. Last month, CIA head Leon Panetta was nominated to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates when he retires. Gen. David Petraeus is slated to take over Panetta’s post at the CIA.

– Ann Compton and Avery Miller

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