President Barack Obama will nominate Gen. Mark Milley, a soldier with a background steeped in Special Forces and infantry command, to lead the Army. If confirmed as the Army’s chief of staff, Milley would take over amid steep cuts to the size and budget of the Army.
“He not only has plenty of operational and joint experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and on the Joint Staff, but he also has the intellect and vision to lead change throughout the Army,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the Pentagon Wednesday.
Milley’s rise to top Army officer came quickly. He is commander of U.S. Forces Command, a post he’s held only since last August. Previously, for a little more than one year he was the deputy commander of the Afghanistan war and ran the international coalition’s day-to-day operations. Prior, Milley has extensive command experience of units like the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and was deputy commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division when deployed to Afghanistan. He has seen combat in Panama and Iraq, as well.
As a colonel, Milley was a military assistant to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Even though he was only in the position for a few months, Milley made an impression on Gates, according to a former OSD staffer. Gates even flew from Washington to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for Milley’s promotion to one-star general as deputy commander of operations for the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault.
If confirmed, Milley, a Princeton graduate with a masters degree from Columbia, would replace Gen. Raymond Odierno, who is retiring.
“General Milley is an experienced, combat-tested, and caring leader,” Odierno said in a statement. “I have known General Milley for many years, have served with him in Iraq and watched him in Afghanistan. I am confident that he is the right leader to lead our Army into the future.”
His experience gives “him firsthand knowledge of what the Army can do and of the impact of resource constraints on its capabilities,” said Gordon Sullivan, a retired Army general who served as Army chief of staff and now heads the Association of the U.S. Army.
Milley’s selection notably leaves Gen. Lloyd Austin in command of U.S. Central Command, overseeing the fight against the Islamic State and terrorism across the Middle East. Austin, who succeeded Odierno as the final Iraq War commander, is largely regarded by his senior colleagues as a respected operational commander, but is also known to reporters and colleagues a man who prefers to avoid the public spotlight and media scrutiny Milley will immediately face as the newest presumed member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.