Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Tuesday announcement: Dempsey to CJCS, Odierno to Army chief of staff

I’m hearing the announcements will start as soon as the Memorial Day weekend is over, probably coming Tuesday. In addition to Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Odierno as chief of staff of the Army, the vice chief of the Army, I am told, likely will be Lloyd Austin. Apparently the vice chairman ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

I'm hearing the announcements will start as soon as the Memorial Day weekend is over, probably coming Tuesday. In addition to Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Odierno as chief of staff of the Army, the vice chief of the Army, I am told, likely will be Lloyd Austin. Apparently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be Adm. James Winnefeld.

This means that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the chief of the Army, and the chief of the CIA all will be people who commanded Army divisions in Iraq during that horrible first year, 2003-2004, which I found harder than subsequent years because I never expected the leadership of the United States military and government to screw it up so badly. (Dempsey had 1st Armored Division, Odierno had 4th Infantry Division, and Petraeus had 101st Airborne Division. Makes me want to dig out my notes for Fiasco of the logs of commanders' meetings from that year.)   

The smart money says this is a short-term play -- putting an Army guy in as chairman signals that the Obama administration is very focused on dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Iraq, over the next couple of years. The long-term play would have been guys more focussed on the Pacific and China. I would bet that might be the next round -- Dempsey's successor in four years. 

I’m hearing the announcements will start as soon as the Memorial Day weekend is over, probably coming Tuesday. In addition to Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Odierno as chief of staff of the Army, the vice chief of the Army, I am told, likely will be Lloyd Austin. Apparently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be Adm. James Winnefeld.

This means that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the chief of the Army, and the chief of the CIA all will be people who commanded Army divisions in Iraq during that horrible first year, 2003-2004, which I found harder than subsequent years because I never expected the leadership of the United States military and government to screw it up so badly. (Dempsey had 1st Armored Division, Odierno had 4th Infantry Division, and Petraeus had 101st Airborne Division. Makes me want to dig out my notes for Fiasco of the logs of commanders’ meetings from that year.)   

The smart money says this is a short-term play — putting an Army guy in as chairman signals that the Obama administration is very focused on dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Iraq, over the next couple of years. The long-term play would have been guys more focussed on the Pacific and China. I would bet that might be the next round — Dempsey’s successor in four years. 

Bonus puzzler: It will be interesting to see how Odierno and Petraeus overcome the bad blood caused by Winnefeld’s stealth mission for Adm. Fox Fallon (remember him?) to Iraq in 2007 to curtail the surge.  

UPDATE: It now looks like the announcement will be made on Monday itself.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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