U.S. Army Gen. Mart, ... ]

U.S. Army Gen. Mart, ... ] U.S. Army Photo

Dempsey Gets a New Top Adviser

NSC’s Horan takes over powerful Chairman’s Action Group. By Kevin Baron

About to enter his second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey has a new top counselor in a longtime aide.

Army Col. Dave Horan took over this week as director of the influential Chairman’s Action Group, or CAG, Dempsey’s staff told Defense One on Wednesday. Horan came from the White House, where he was director for defense policy and strategy on the National Security Staff.

The CAG is a group of roughly 18 advisers who serve as an internal think tank for nearly everything Dempsey, the president’s top military adviser, does, reads and says.

Horan is a familiar face to Dempsey, who notably came to the chairman’s office with relatively no entourage, by his own design. Horan previously served with Dempsey in roles similar to the CAG director when Dempsey was at Central Command, Training and Doctrine Command and as Army chief of staff at the Pentagon. He also was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Horan takes over from Col. Troy Thomas, who has not received his next assignment yet and “continues to support the chairman as a special assistant,” Col. Edward Thomas, Dempsey’s spokesman, told Defense One.

Col. Troy Thomas, in a 2012 interview with Foreign Policy, said his view of the CAG’s role was to “advance [Dempsey’s] intent, in terms of his narrative, his engagements and his ideas.” Working alongside the chairman’s sizable public affairs staff -- the groups share adjoining offices in the Pentagon’s D-ring -- Thomas organized the CAG into three teams: speechwriters; a team that crafts Dempsey’s public engagement strategy and travel; and an inside study group that suggests or finds readings for the general, often at his request.

President Barack Obama has nominated Dempsey for a customary second two-year term as chairman, along with the vice chairman, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld. Dempsey’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for Thursday.

“General Dempsey often talks about trust as the foundational quality of the profession of arms -- trust between leaders, those they lead, the institutions they represent, and the nation they serve,” Obama said in a statement on Wednesday. “These two distinguished military leaders have earned my trust and that of the American people.”

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