Obama Selects Gen. James Jones for National Security Adviser

Retired Marine General seen as boosting Obama's foreign policy credentials.

Dec. 1, 2008 — -- The post of National Security Adviser will be the latest in a string of high-profile positions that retired Marine General James L. Jones has served in during and after a distinguished 40-year military career.

Jones, 64, President-elect Barack Obama's latest intelligence pick, comes from a family that has long served in the Marines, beginning in 1938, when his uncle joined the Marine Reserves. Ironically, when his own son, Greg, told Jones he was going to join the Marines, he was hesitant. Jones had seen hundreds of men die and had nearly lost his own life on one bloody night in Vietnam. He did not want to lose his son.

During his four decades in the Marine Corps, Jones rose from a platoon commander in Vietnam to Commandant of the Marine Corps and later served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

Jones is often referred to as a poster boy Marine: 6-foot-4 and lean, with piercing blue eyes, he commands instant respect.

When Jones' son, Lt. Greg Jones, was deployed in Iraq in 2003-04, ABC News asked him if it was hard serving when all the other Marines knew his father was a four-star general. He laughed and said, "No, not really."

But then he recounted how when his father had visited Iraq, he had pulled his son aside.

The younger Jones had put on a bit of weight because of the high-calorie content in the dining facilities. His father had clearly taken note, saying, "Son, they don't promote chubby Marines."

Lt. Jones said he started cutting back on the high-calorie meals the next day.

The younger Jones has since left the Marine Corps. His father said last year that for the first time in 70 years no member of the family is on active duty.

Jones Chaired Iraqi Troop Readiness Panel

Since retiring last year as a four-star general, he has served as the Bush administration's special envoy for Middle East security and chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Congress that assessed the readiness of Iraqi troops.

He has also served as the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

As National Security Adviser, Jones will serve as Obama's chief adviser on national security affairs and help coordinate the interagency efforts of the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community.

There has been much criticism that the interagency effort stalled under both of President Bush's national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

Obama Administration Inherits Two Wars

The Obama administration will inherit several thorny national security issues that will require immediate attention.

Foremost among these is the management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and combating the terrorist threat in Pakistan. Containing the nuclear aspirations of an ambitious Iran and a flip-flopping North Korea will also be important issues on the horizon for Obama's national security team.

Jones has intimate knowledge of the conflict in Afghanistan from the days when he was NATO commander and the alliance took responsibility for the security mission in that country.

That will prove useful as Obama made it a cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda during the campaign to refocus the American military's effort away from Iraq to Afghanistan.

As a former military commander he will also be keenly aware of the Pentagon's limitations in being able to provide the additional 20,000 troops that top U.S. commanders there have requested.

The National Security Council meets with the president and vice president, and includes intelligence officials as well as officials from the Defense, State and Treasury departments.

Jones, like Obama, has advocated increasing the NSC's attention to once-peripheral foreign policy issues such as energy use and economic interests that they believe will play greater roles in strategic decision-making.

Jones is seen as a bipartisan figure and maintained a neutral stance during the campaign by not publicly backing either Obama or Republican candidate John McCain, who is also a Vietnam veteran.

He was mentioned by some in the McCain camp as possibly playing a role in their administration, but he also served as an informal adviser to Obama during the campaign.

His name was among those mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Obama as someone who could boost his foreign policy and defense credentials.