Marine Commandant, Air Force Cargo Pilot Tapped to Lead Pentagon

By Marcus Weisgerber

May 4, 2015

President Barack Obama will tap Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday, a defense official confirmed late Monday.

Obama will also nominate Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the head of U.S. Transportation Command, to become the next vice chairman, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

If confirmed, Dunford, who oversaw U.S. forces in Afghanistan from February 2013 until last August and commanded Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, would become the second Marine to serve in the nation’s top military post. Gen. Pete Pace held the position from 2005 to 2007.

Dunford has been commandant of the Marine Corps since October.

Dunford and Selva would replace Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, the current chairman and vice chairman. Their nominations come as the military has slowed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, widened its campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, and grappled with budget uncertainty with little signs of long-term relief.

While Dunford’s nomination was widely expected, Selva’s nomination is perhaps more significant: no Air Force general has held either of the top two slots on the Joint Chiefs since Gen. Richard Myers stepped down as chairman in 2005. As well, Obama’s nomination of Selva – a cargo and aerial tanker pilot – is unusual for a service that has historically recommended only fighter and bomber pilots for its highest billets.

Selva was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior military adviser from 2008 to 2011 when he was the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pentagon insiders have long said Selva would be a likely candidate for the chairman’s job if Clinton is elected president in 2016.

By Marcus Weisgerber // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials.

May 4, 2015